After the first day of competition at Hungarian Nationals, where Laszlo Cseh set a new National Record in the 100 fly and won four national titles, it looked as though the man was going to be unstoppable.
Day two, however, brought a whole different ring to it, as the young Bence Biczo toppled the Hungarian king in the men’s 200 fly. Biczo, who is the defending Youth Olympic champ in this race, became only the second man in the world this year to break the 1:55 mark (the other is Japan’s Takeshi Matsuda, and neither is named Michael Phelps) when he won the National title in 1:54.79. Cseh was second in 1:55.98, which is still a season-best for him and puts him 7th in the world.
This really accelerates the process for Biczo, who was not expected to be a true medal contender until closer to the 2012 Olympics. As a comparison, only three swimmers were faster than Biczo’s time in 2010: all done with full tapers.
How do we put Biczo’s sub-1:55 swim in historical perspective? Well, for starters, it’s the best time of his career by 1.03 seconds. Almost exactly 10 years ago, nobody had ever been under 1:55, until Michael Phelps became the first to do so in 2001 at only the age of 15. Phelps is sort of the benchmark of this event at every level, given how young he was when he became the fastest in the world at it. From 15-18, Phelps didn’t drop a ton of time, and when he was 18 (which is the age Biczo is now), he was only going 1:56’s in June.
He would taper off to a 1:53.93 that year, in 2003, and went on to break another World Record and win another World Championship that year in Barcelona.
Biczo’s training history is still short, and thus his rest levels are hard to pinpoint. If it’s any indication, however, between the European Juniors in 2010, which were a month out of the Youth Olympics, he dropped roughly 1.2 seconds off of his time. That puts him right in the range of where Phelps was in this event at the same age (though obviously he doesn’t have the same bredth of event talent as the King of the Swim did at that age).
Though it’s fun for us in the media and fandom to make comparisons like this, Biczo gave a great post-race interview that indicated he doesn’t want anything to do with any Phelps comparisons. Roughly translated, he told reporters that he has enough of a challenge to try and beat Laszlo Cseh, the best in Europe, every once in a while without having to worry about chasing Phelps’ shadow. It’s great to see a young athlete who is so humble and respectful of their countrymates who paved the way for them to have a shot at greatness in the future.
The other big swim in Hungary came from Eva Risztov, who won the 400 free in 4:07.99, which pushes her to exactly 20th in the world rankings this year. Gergo Kis, who had a big time in the 800 on Thursday, won the men’s 400 free in 3:49.98, which is off of his season-best time.