In the wake of the news about the postponement of the 2020 Olympic Games due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Hungarian sportsmen in general accepted and acknowledged the decision, many of them were however unable to hide their disappointment, given the prolongation and uncertainty of preparations.
To this date, Hungarian sportsmen gained 75 qualifications for the Olympics, while 57% of the total number of quotas have already been allocated wolrdwide. This means that not only the date of the Olympics is yet to be decided (as to the current standing, it has to be held by the end of summer 2021), but the completion of the qualification process is also yet to be determined.
In addition, kayak-canoe racers and swimmers have already finished off a two-week-long training camp, the work done there having now gone up in smoke.
The Hungarian Olympic Committee’s (MOB) president Krisztián Kulcsár commented that “given the circumstances, it would be the triumph of the sport if the 2020 Tokyo Olympics wouldn’t be canceled at all but “only” postponed.”
42-year-old kayaker legend Zoltán Kammerer, who is to participate in his sixth Olmypics, also remained optimistic. The three-time champion said that he was sure that they would have the chance to show their strength, “but now we need patience and co-operation between us and everyone in the world.”
Two-time Olympic champion sabre fencer Áron Szilágyi commented that “it devastated me a bit, but it didn’t quite come as a surprise (…) It is difficult to accept that what we have been preparing for for four years is postponed and we have to put another year into it, but we will be able to manage it.”
World-champion sailor Zsombor Berecz, who would arrive in Tokyo as one of the favorites, spoke of the preparational and logistical difficulties. Even after hearing the news about the outbreak, he decided to continue his training in Mallorca, from where he only aimed to leave as the announcement came out about the postponement, causing him, of course, difficulties. In addition “the direction of the winds differ in every season, and we have been already preparing for the July-August period (…) With the postponement, everything is up in the air, very much causing headache for everyone.”
The coach of the men’s fresh European champion waterpolo team (the only one in classic team sports to have already gained qualification), Tamás Märcz, said that “in the current circumstances, this decision could be expected. We were very much looking forward to the Olympics, and the team has been particularly strong in recent times; it is, however, clear that health concerns must override sports (…) We are sad about this decision, but we are adapting to the new situation and working out a new plan…”
Olympic bronze medalist and World Champion swimmer Boglárka Kapás said that although she is rather confused and beside the potential pitfalls of the changes and prolongation in the preparation period, “…the postponement and given that I get extra months, even a year, might even come in handy as I can get better in the 200-meter butterfly.”
More interesting and doubtful is the fate (and opinion) of those who are already thinking about retirement after the Games, and those for whom the upcoming Games could be their last shot to make history. Wrestler Marianna Sastin was perhaps the most disappointed of them all. Despite understanding the decision, the 36 year-old World Champion, who, however, at each of her previous Olympics, dropped out at early stages, said that “I can’t spiff it up, I’m very sad knowing that I won’t be any younger…”
Olympic silver medal judoist Miklós Ungvári was also resigned. The Cegléd-born sportsman, who has yet to qualify and turns 40 next year, commented that “while many have to now revise their preparation, I have to revise my entire career (…) whether I can do it or not, whether I can hold out until 2021, whether I will be able to exploit my body for another year.”
WC bronze medal judoka Hedvig Karakas also talked about time. “I couldn’t process the decision yet, but I feel that one of my eyes weeps, the other twinkles (…) When I was low, I had a bad workout, or a less successful competition, I always thought there wasn’t further to go anymore. (…) I didn’t want to gain time anymore. I’m thirty now and time isn’t working for me anymore. It’s, however, a good thing that the decision has finally been made. [At least] one can plan…”
The WC silver and bronze medal fencer Aida Mohamed aims for her seventh Olympics and hopes to break the records of Aladár Gerevich (and Áron Gádorfalvi). In an interview with 24.hu, Mohamed, who turns 44 next year, said she believes she can hold out until then. Recently, she has been coming into good form again, possibly enough to gain qualification. Needless to say, as younger generations come up, her chances are going down. The three-time Olympic fourth place fencer confirmed that this might be her last shot.
featured image: Aida Mohamed; via MTI/Tibor Illyés
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