Antun Stipančić

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Antun Stipančić
Nationality Yugoslavia
Born(1949-05-18)18 May 1949
Duga Resa, SFR Yugoslavia
Died20 November 1991(1991-11-20) (aged 42)
Zagreb, Croatia
Medal record
Men's table tennis
Representing  Yugoslavia
World Championships
Bronze medal – third place 1981 Novi Sad Doubles
Gold medal – first place 1979 Pyongyang Doubles
Bronze medal – third place 1977 Birmingham Doubles
Silver medal – second place 1975 Calcutta Singles
Silver medal – second place 1975 Calcutta Doubles
Silver medal – second place 1975 Calcutta Team
Bronze medal – third place 1973 Sarajevo Singles
Bronze medal – third place 1973 Sarajevo Doubles
Silver medal – second place 1971 Nagoya Mixed Doubles
Bronze medal – third place 1971 Nagoya Team
Bronze medal – third place 1969 Munich Team
European Championships
Silver medal – second place 1980 Berne Doubles
Bronze medal – third place 1980 Berne Mixed Doubles
Bronze medal – third place 1978 Duisburg Doubles
Bronze medal – third place 1976 Prague Doubles
Gold medal – first place 1976 Prague Mixed Doubles
Gold medal – first place 1976 Prague Team
Bronze medal – third place 1974 Novi Sad Doubles
Bronze medal – third place 1974 Novi Sad Mixed Doubles
Bronze medal – third place 1972 Rotterdam Singles
Silver medal – second place 1972 Rotterdam Team
Gold medal – first place 1970 Moscow Doubles
Silver medal – second place 1970 Moscow Team
Gold medal – first place 1968 Lyon Doubles

Antun "Tova" Stipančić (Duga Resa, 18 May 1949 – Zagreb, 20 November 1991[1]) was a highly accomplished Croatian and Yugoslav professional table tennis player.

Table Tennis career[edit]

He was one of the most renowned personalities in the history of the competition, earning him the nickname "the golden left hand of Croatian sport". A table tennis child prodigy who was proclaimed "Best Croatian Sportsman" in 1975, he was National Championship winner numerous times, three times European Champion in doubles, World Champion in men's doubles in 1979[2] [3] (Stipančić–Šurbek), and World Championship silver medalist in singles in 1975.[4]

Early years[edit]

Antun Stipančić was born in Duga Resa, a small industrial town in central Croatia's Karlovac County (at the time of his birth, and until summer-autumn 1991, Croatia was one of six republics constituting Yugoslavia). His family of five — father Ivan, a janitor at the football club, mother Franca and two younger brothers, Marijan and Ivica — had a difficult time trying to make ends meet. They lived in very modest circumstances in a damp apartment located at the football (soccer) playground which shared its location with the hall of the Table Tennis Club (TTC) "Duga Resa".

At the end of the 1950s, a group of sport enthusiasts led by Josip Trupković, Josip Stojković and Dragutin Vrana brought inspiration to the little-noted town and its young people with a new sport - table tennis. The TTC "Pamučna industrija" was born and its priority was to coach the next generation.

As time passed and word began to spread, more and more curiosity seekers began to visit the table tennis halls to see with their own eyes the Duga Resa youngster, called "the wonder kid". "Tova" Stipančić won his first tournament at the age of 12 in 1961, playing in Karlovac League's cadet category and, a few months later, was the best at Zagreb's "Ribnjak".

In 1965, Ichiro Ogimura, a famous Japanese table tennis expert, visited Duga Resa. Stipančić also had a direct contact with the world champion Zhuang Zedong at the world championships in Ljubljana, where he played against him for the first time. As Stipančić stepped forward, he won his first important international match in 1965 at the Open Championships of Poland in Krakow, defeating the European champion Kjell Johanson in the second round. In 1966, he was a member of the national team to the European Championships in Wembley. Later that year, he won a gold medal playing mixed doubles with Mirjana Resler and a silver medal playing doubles with Zlatko Čordaš at The Youth European Championships in Szombathely.

He played at the 1968 Championat de Europe at Lyon Sport Hall, where he played well in team events and doubles with Edvard Vecko. They played offensively and firmly, defeating the Swedish experts Johanson and Alser in the final. After succeeding in graduating from Textile High School, he devoted all his attention to his sport career.

High points of career as a professional player[edit]

During summer 1970 came the unexpected decision, although not so unexpected among table tennis officials: Tova left his "Pamučna industrija" club and became a member of TTC "Vjesnik". The basic reason for moving from the smaller club to the larger one was the need for an adequately strong sparring partner (and none was more suitable than Šurbek or Čordaš), as well as the great challenge of taking part in The European Cup. With the new uniform he put on, there was still another major event: not long afterwards Tova Stipančić was married... As 1971 began, he moved to Zagreb, recalling that "...the new surrounding, new habits, days of great changes... was time for thinking".

The year's end was topped off with a glamorous prize: Stipančić celebrating a first class victory at the International Tournament in Zagreb's "Box of Matches" Hall. Journalists lavished him with headlines - "Tova's Scalping Chinese", "Stipančić Over the Chinese Great Wall", "The Ball Caught Fire". Stipančić smashed Chinese Zhou Lansun and Li Furong, in the semi-finals he defeated Šurbek and, in the finals, the celebrated Zhuang Zedong: 16:21, 21:12 and 21:12, experiencing ecstatic ovations from the overjoyed Zagreb spectators.

In 1972 Zagreb played host to a tournament which brought together the top European table tennis players. It was a complete success in organization and results. It was a top show, with "Europe's Top Twelve" in Zagreb's Trešnjevka sport hall.... and Tova was in the leading role! He broke all the barriers and won the trophy which was presented to him by Reno Vinek, the editor of Sportske Novosti.

On the world stage in 1975-80[edit]

In 1975 India built the Netaji Indoor Stadium, a 12,000-seat domed arena, specifically for the World Championships at the Eden Gardens, Kolkata. There, Tova is considered to have played the matches of his life... At the quarter-finals - a "match for the gourmet" - Hsi En Ting, the title defender left the arena totally defeated by Tova in a rarely seen match, 3:2. In the next game - and it was the semi-final, Antun played against the excellent Japanese defender Takashima. Antun's superior play brought victory in 5 sets !

Then came the long-awaited finals. In the crowded hall, "the war" between 25-year-old Antun Stipančić and the year-younger Istvan Jonyer. It was an excellent opportunity Tova's expertise, but some had doubts. Since Tova had defeated the robust "Hungarian Hussar" only a few days earlier in the team events, he had a certain psychological advantage, but there was uncertainty whether he would be able to use it. In the first set Jonyer started nervously and "hard", and Stipančić collected points from semi distance, 4:2, 9:5, 13:7, 18:15 and 21:17. There was happiness on Stipančić's bench as the Hungarian seemed nervous and played shackled, while Stipančić was winning his points "by blocking and controlling the situation firmly" winning the second set 21:12. 2:0! But Jonyer succeeded in catching up with Stipančić, 2:2! There was palpable drama in the deciding fifth set! The Zagreb player from Duga Resa inched closer to victory as he led 16:15, 18:17... but Istvan played well, took risks, returned undependable balls, came to 18:20, and then missed one counter ball, 19:20. There was silence in the hall. Again a strong top spin attack, Tova's ball hit the net... Jonyer was the winner, Tova the silver medalist.

In 1979 Tova flew to Pyongyang with his national team to the World Championship in Pyongyang with his national team. "Why not try again?", he explained. "I always fought more with my hand and heart than with my legs" and the medal hunters, the experienced double Šurbek – Stipančić were off to win the table tennis Mount Everest! At the finals of the men's doubles, Tova and Šurba were on one side and two very well known competitors, Hungarian aces Klampar and Jonyer, were on the other. European finals held on Asian grounds. Victory for the Yugoslav team came with 3 sets to 0, and they were acclaimed as table tennis immortals for all time. The victors searched for appropriate words, and Tova, raising his voice said, "Men, I finally experienced it, we are the real champions. Nobody could take us a set."

The following year, at the 1980 European Championships in Bern Tova won two medals playing doubles, but sportswriters pointed out that he showed his true sport greatness in the fifth set. At 19:19 he gave up the ball in favor of the English player Paul Day, although the referee decided the opposite. For that sport gesture he got "The Fair Play Trophy R. Bergmann".

Antun Stipančić died in Zagreb at the age of 42.


Tova Stipančić was viewed as a figure belonging to the global community. Players of table tennis from all corners of the world recall him, whether they faced him on the court or appreciated his outstanding skills from afar. Through his unique personality and exceptional athletic accomplishments, Tova Stipančić made an enduring impact and became a part of the history of sports, the world at large, Croatia, and his hometown of Duga Resa.

He won 27 medals, 11 medals from world championships;[5] [6] 1 gold, 4 silver, 6 bronze; and 16 medals from European championships (4,3,9). Additionally, he won 48 medals at international tournaments in all categories.

  • TEAM
    • 1969. (München) – 3rd ( bronze medalist ) Šurbek, Korpa
    • 1971. (Nagoya) – 3rd ( bronze medalist ) Šurbek, Karakašević
    • 1975. (Kolkata) – 2nd ( silver medalist ) Šurbek, Karakašević
    • 1973. (Sarajevo) - 3rd ( bronze medalist )
    • 1975. ( Kolkata) - 2nd ( silver medalist )
    • 1973. (Sarajevo) - 3rd ( bronze medalist ) Šurbek;
    • 1975. (Kolkata) - 2nd ( silver medalist ) Šurbek;
    • 1977. (Birmingham)- 3rd ( bronze medalist ) Šurbek;
    • 1979. (Pyongyang) - 1st ( golden medalist ) Šurbek;
    • 1981. (Novi Sad) - 3rd ( bronze medalist ) Šurbek;
    • 1971. (Nagoya) - 2nd (silver medalist ) Alexandru;
  • TEAM
    • 1966. (London) - 3rd ( bronze medalist ) Šurbek;
    • 1968. (Lyon) - 3rd ( bronze medalist ) Šurbek;
    • 1970. (Moscow ) - 2nd ( silver medalist ) Šurbek, Čordaš;
    • 1972. (Rotterdam)- 2nd ( silver medalist ) Šurbek, Čordaš;
    • 1974. (Novi Sad) - 2nd ( silver medalist ) Šurbek, Čordaš;
    • 1976. (Praha) - 1st ( golden medalist ) Šurbek, Jurčič;
    • 1972. (Rotterdam)- 3rd ( bronze medalist )
    • 1968. (Lyon) - 1st ( golden medalist ) Vecko;
    • 1970. (Moscow)- 1st ( golden medalist ) Šurbek;
    • 1974. (Novi Sad) - 3rd ( bronze medalist ) Šurbek;
    • 1976. (Praha) - 3rd ( bronze medalist ) Šurbek;
    • 1978. (Duisburg) 3rd ( bronze medalist ) Šurbek;
    • 1980. (Bern) - 2nd ( silver medalist ) Šurbek;
    • 1974. (Novi Sad) - 3rd ( bronze medalist ) Alexandru;
    • 1976. (Praha) - 1st ( golden medalist ) Palatinuš;
    • 1980. (Bem) - 3rd ( bronze medalist ) Palatinuš;
    • 1972/73. (GSTK "Vjesnik") – 1st
    • 1973/74. (GSTK "Vjesnik") - 1st
    • 1975/76. (GSTK "Vjesnik") - 1st
  • EUROPE “TOP 12” ( SINGLE )
    • 1972. (Zagreb) - 1st
    • 1973. (Böblingen)- 3rd
    • 1975. (Wiena) - 2nd

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Stipančić, Anton". Proleksis Encyclopedia (in Croatian). Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  2. ^ Montague, Trevor (2004). A-Z of Sport, pages 699-700. The Bath Press. ISBN 0-316-72645-1.
  3. ^ Matthews/Morrison, Peter/Ian (1987). The Guinness Encyclopaedia of Sports Records and Results, pages 309-312. Guinness Superlatives. ISBN 0-85112-492-5.
  4. ^ "ITTF_Database". Archived from the original on 2011-08-24. Retrieved 2015-07-30.
  5. ^ "Table Tennis World Championship medal winners". Sports123.
  6. ^ "Profile". Table Tennis Guide.