Kiraly, Karch

Kiraly, Karch
▪ 1997

      Already considered by many to be the greatest volleyball player in history, U.S. athlete Charles ("Karch") Kiraly further solidified his presence in the sport's annals by winning a gold medal with partner Kent Steffes at the 1996 Olympic Games. Having already won gold medals in 1984 and 1988 in the indoor game, Kiraly became the first volleyball player to triumph three times in Olympic competition, competing in 1996 in beach volleyball, which made its debut as a medal sport at the Games in Atlanta, Ga. With the conquest, Kiraly's career had come full circle; he had learned to play volleyball from his father on the beaches of California and had since gone on to play the indoor game as well as anyone ever had.

      Kiraly was born Nov. 3, 1960, in Jackson, Mich., and his family moved to Santa Barbara, Calif., when Karch was four years old. His father, Laszlo Kiraly, had played on the national volleyball team in his native Hungary. Karch was introduced to the game at the age of six, and by the time he was 11, he had entered his first beach tournament with his father. With a vertical leap of 104 cm (41 in), Kiraly was a standout at Santa Barbara High School and was named the best player in the state his senior year. He attended the University of California, Los Angeles, where he was a four-time All-American and led his squad to three national titles in four years. He joined the U.S. national team in 1981. With Kiraly on board as an outside hitter, Team USA won gold medals at the Olympic Games in 1984 in Los Angeles and 1988 in Seoul, S.Kor. (where he was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player). The team also struck gold at the world championships in 1982 and 1986 (when he was named best player in the world, an honour repeated in 1988), and at the 1987 Pan American games.

      In 1989 the 1.88-m (6-ft 2-in), 97.5-kg (215-lb) Kiraly left the U.S. national team to play with Il Messaggero of Ravenna, Italy, where he was named Most Valuable Player when the team won the world club championship in 1991. He then concentrated on the financially lucrative beach game that earned him the Association of Volleyball Professionals' Most Valuable Player title five times (1990 and 1992-95). By January 1996 his career earnings had exceeded $2 million. (ANTHONY G. CRAINE)

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▪ American athlete
byname of  Charles Kiraly 
born November 3, 1960, Jackson, Michigan, U.S.
 
 American athlete who was the first volleyball player to win three Olympic gold medals and was considered one of the sport's greatest players, excelling at both indoor and beach volleyball.

      When Kiraly was four years old, he moved with his family to Santa Barbara, California. His father, Laszlo Kiraly, had played on the Hungarian national volleyball team, and he introduced his son to the game at an early age; by the time Karch was 11 years old, he had entered his first beach tournament with his father. With a vertical leap of 41 inches (104 cm), Kiraly was a standout at Santa Barbara High School and during his senior year was named the best player in the state. He attended the University of California (B.S., 1983) in Los Angeles, where he was a four-time All-American and led his squad to three national titles (1979, 1980, 1981) in four years. In 1981 he joined the U.S. national volleyball team, and, as the squad's outside hitter, he helped the United States win Olympic gold medals at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles and at the 1988 Games in Seoul, South Korea; at the latter event he was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player (MVP). The U.S. team also won gold at the 1982 and 1986 world championships and at the 1987 Pan American Games. In 1986 and 1988 the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) named Kiraly the best player in the world.

      In 1989 Kiraly left the U.S. national team to play with Il Messaggero of Ravenna, Italy, where he was named MVP when the team won the world club championship in 1991. He then concentrated on the financially lucrative beach game that earned him the Association of Volleyball Professionals' MVP title six times (1990, 1992–95, and 1998). At the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, beach volleyball debuted as a medal sport, and Kiraly, with partner Kent Steffes, won the gold medal. In 1999 Kiraly surpassed Sinjin Smith as the beach volleyball player with the most victories; by the time of his retirement in 2007, he had won 144 events. He was inducted into the Volleyball Hall of Fame in 2001 and the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 2008. Kiraly wrote several books on volleyball, and his autobiography, The Sand Man (written with Byron Shewman), was published in 1999.

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Universalium. 2010.

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