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TIBOR HARANGOZO – a table tennis visionary

26 April 2018  | Posted in: Fun & Inspiration

About the author

Radivoj Hudetz

Radivoj Hudetz is a 70-year veteran of table tennis and the Chairman of the ETTHoF board. 

He's the coach of Bayern, the German junior team, the Yugoslavian national women team, and the Yugoslavian champion women team HASTK Mladost Zagreb. He's an author of several books on table tennis techniques, tactics and history. He's also the chief editor of table tennis periodicals “Tischtennis aktuell” and “SPIN”, and an author of several films and DVD’s on table tennis. He's also the former president of Yugoslav Table Tennis Association and the former General secretary of Croatian TT Association. He was the tournament director of World Championships 2007. 

Currently he's a honorary member of ETTU and a member of ITTF President Advisory Council. He's been honored with ITTF award of merit, with the Croatian Table Tennis Association’s Trophy and with the Sport Award of Croatian Republic.


Tibor Harangozo /1922 – 1978/, a world class table tennis player, coach, author, founder of world renown table tennis company TIBHAR (TIBor HARangozo)

Tibor Harangozo


TIBOR HARANGOZO – a table tennis visionary

Tibhar. A brand that is familiar to all table tennis players and a name that is often synonymous to high quality table tennis products. Today, we are all familiar with their modern presence with products such as their Evolution and Aurus series of rubbers along with their sponsored players such as Vladimir Samsonov. Though what many may not know is how this company began. Let's unravel this mystery!

The Early Days

It's now the second half of the 1940s. With World War 2 over and Europe rebuilding, table tennis began to build itself up too. Up until this point in time, the term “coach” didn't exist in table tennis. There was no systematic form of training. Nobody taught young players how to properly perform a stroke or to provide instructions on how to practice. The only way to actually learn something was to watch top players, then try to copy their game.

I started to play table tennis in the courtyard of the Mladost Zagreb Table Tennis Club and became a member in the beginning of 1948. During the summer of 1949, I was invited to a training camp for the Zagreb junior selection and Tibor Harangozo was our coach. Finally, table tennis has a formal training system with a coach and Harazango is there to help pioneer it. For the first time, somebody taught us how to execute different strokes correctly, fixed our mistakes, set different drills, and harnessed how we performed them. Unfortunately, Tibor left us immediately after the camp had finished. He then went to Chile, where he remained for 2 years as their national coach. The camp in Zagreb was the beginning of a life time of cooperation between Harangozo and myself. While it might have started in Zagreb, it persisted after he had returned from Chile, lasting until his premature passing.

I watched Harangozo play even before he coached in the aforementioned training camp. He played in Zagreb together with his younger brother Vilim Harangozo for the Yugoslav national team against France. The tale of his playing career is almost unbelievable and is proof of his limitless persistence. At the peak of his career, he was an extraordinary defensive player, playing almost exclusively classic defence. Together with Zarko Dolinar, he won a silver medal at World championships in Cairo, 1939 with the Yugoslav team.

During the 2nd World War he was a student in Budapest and was the most successful table tennis player in occupied Europe. Even during the war there were many events with top players from Germany, Hungary, Austria, the former Yugoslavia, and other occupied countries.

Post WWII and Health Concerns

Immediately after the war it was expected that Tibor would prove his status as the best European player but a problem developed in his right hand. He was not able to hold the racket normally the way he always had. He was forced to grip it in a way which allowed him to only utilize forehand attacks. Not even chopping defence, no backhand at all! Consistent with his will and tenacity that he was famous for, Tibor did not give up. He started to train his forehand attack constantly and from that point on, played each ball with his forehand as his ailing right hand did not allow any other options. Starting as a top class defender, he transformed himself into a 100% forehand attacker! Even with his new limited style, almost as a disabled player, he managed to become a quarterfinalist in singles and doubles at the World Championships in 1949. It was truly an impressive achievement, possible only due to his immense persistence!

Unfortunately, soon after that his condition became worse and he was not able to hold the racket with his right hand at all. Though once again, in classic Harangozo fashion, he did not give up and started to train intensely with his left hand. In a remarkably short time, he was able to make it into quarterfinals of the Yugoslav ranking tournament and was well on his way back into the national team. But then, sadly the same ailment he had with his right hand started to happen with his left hand. This was the final nail in the coffin and he was forced to stop playing and became a coach.

The Coach of Table Tennis

As a coach, he was far ahead of his time; his program to work on the stroke and movement technique of his players was intensive and effective. He introduced new exercises and drills being the first coach to introduce “multiball” training and it was only the mid 1950s.

Multiball practice is today an important part of modern training. The Chinese developed it to perfection, but Tibor was already using that training method with us in 1954. It wasn't until 1959 that China participated in the World Championships for their first time! As a table tennis coach he was the first to introduce and adapt the interval training method into standard table tennis training systems, he pioneered and systematized many new table tennis specific exercises in line with each of their specific purposes.

His first big success in coaching was with Austrian player Linda Wertl, who in a short time went from a young, unknown player to silver medalist in singles at the World Championships. Tibor worked as a coach for a relatively short time in Zagreb, Chile, Austria, Subotica, and Bavaria. Everywhere he went, he would go on to instill great progress and development for his players. Though he never stayed long enough to stabilize said achievements. In 1956, he moved to Saarbrucken where he coached Saarland until the end of his coaching career.

He is remembered in the history of table tennis as one of the most outstanding coaches as he introduced many new systems into table tennis training. His book, Table Tennis (1954), was an introduction into modern table tennis coaching. Along with this, he educated several would-be coaches who later became world renown themselves.

Tibor was quite a demanding coach, he insisted on 100% concentration during the practice, he worked up to total exhaustion on technical details. Consistency in the performance of all strokes was the goal. His game conception was based on defence, with forehand attacking as an addition. During the time of rackets without sponge (hardbat), it was a logical and efficient system.

International Training Camps

In the late 1950s, Tibor started to organize open training camps at the sport center in Saarbrucken. It was a new, revolutionary program. He had gathered some talented young coaches and camps were open for anybody who wanted to improve their game, from beginners and all the way up to national team players.

These were the first camps with individual programs for its participants. At that time there weren't even any national team training camps, let alone any camps for other players. National team players from many countries such as Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, Luxembourg, France, and others were the first to attend these camps during the first years of their creation. Naturally, the camps became quite popular. Many children showed up to learn how to play properly and even many elderly players of all types came to improve their game. The “Tibor Harangozo International Table Tennis School” became a hit. It then spread quickly. Training camps in Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, and France were organized. Many famous coaches like Charles Roesch, Mario Amizic, Eva Jeler, Branka Batinic, Leo Amizic, Tomy Tereczik, Boris Turina, Bobo Pranjkovic, and Walter Grabner worked in the school. I was also a part of it for several decades and it was great life experience for me.

Sure, many players, coaches, and officials came to these training camps and as a result, there were of course always discussions about table tennis equipment, rubbers, and blades. Tibor realized that it was necessary to offer players new, more individual possibilities in the choice of their equipment; rubbers and blades. Something that Tibhar offers and excels at to this day. He then began to develop rubbers and eventually blades for different styles of play. This widened a player's options so everybody was able to find a rubber and blade that was suited for their individual game.

The Creation of Tibhar

Tibor then founded a company and named it TIBHAR by combining the first 3 letters of his first and last names (TIBor HARangozo). They started to produce the table tennis equipment that Tibor had designed. After Tibor died, his junior partner Erwin Berg took over the company, today it is one of the biggest table tennis companies in the world that we all know and love. Roland Berg, son of Erwin, is now a successful managing director.

Over the years, Tibor became more and more of a businessman. He soon stopped following the development of the game and became less involved with it. Groups of coaches working at his school explained to him that with the new advancements in equipment, a new topspin game had become the standard. This meant that techniques and the overall concept of the game had radically changed. Ultimately, he understood and left us to adapt to this new era and school of thought. Thus, he then concentrated on developing new equipment, where he introduced many novel concepts in the field.

The Legend

I am sorry that new generations know Tibor Harangozo only as the founder of TIBHAR. He was also a great player but at the wrong time (2nd World War), a great coach (as seen with Linda Wertl), and contributed a lot to the development of table tennis technique, practice, and equipment, and a school where many top coaches came from.

Tibor Harangozo will not soon be forgotten. Truly a pioneer of his time, he brought about great change and improvement to how table tennis was taught and performed. His legacy continues to this day with his company Tibhar, which produces top level table tennis equipment used by professionals even now. He was truly a table tennis visionary.


Article by: Radivoj Hudetz

Editing by: George T. Latterman

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