Bygones Of 2020 Olympic Trials: Hosszu, Milak & Cseh in Hungary

The 2020 Hungarian National Championships were slated to begin last week on March, 24th. But, as with equivalent Olympic-qualifying meets everywhere, were canceled due to the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Per our report yesterday, the Hungarian Swimming Federation has suspended training for Hungarian swimmers who have been abroad after 9 National Team members tested positive for COVID-19.

We now know that the Olympic Games themselves have been pushed to July 2021, giving athletes another year to prepare once they’ve come to terms with how quickly things have changed both in and out of the pool.

Before we turn towards the Olympic future, let’s first take stock of the present by reviewing the biggest storylines we had anticipated coming out of medal-contending nations had their trials taken place as scheduled. Here’s what we were looking forward to in Hungary.

Katinka’s Decision

We’re used to seeing multi-Olympic gold medalist Katinka Hosszu take on monster schedules throughout her career, but the 30-year-old ‘backed off’ the backstroke events a tad in 2019.

At the FINA World Aquatic Championships in Gwangju, Hosszu wound up dropping the 100m back sprint, while she opted out of the backstroke discipline entirely at the 2019 European Short Course Championships.

But, the Hungarian Iron Lady returned to the events at the Hungarian Short Course Championships in December, putting up a 100m back mark of 58.14 and a 200m back time of 2:03.55 before taking on both yet again on the FINA Champions Series. Her season-best outings heading into March included a 2:09.95 2back and 1:01.24 1back from Beijing.

Hosszu is the reigning 200m IM and 400m IM world champion from Gwangju and she also raced the 200m free where she placed 17th.

Although we most likely would have seen Hosszu take on all of these events, and possibly more, at Hungarian Nationals, the real question will be what she ultimately decides to race in Tokyo.

Cseh’s Career Ending Yet to be Written

At 34 years of age, Laszlo Cseh is one of Hungary’s most recognizable Olympians. For about a decade Cseh was famously the ‘third wheel’ to Americans Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte’s IM battles, but was a fierce hardware hunter in his own right. He’s claimed 6 medals across 4 Olympic Games, including as a member of the incredible 3-person tie in the men’s 100m fly in Rio.

In light of the delay of the Olympic Games to 2021, Cseh said this week, he will ‘keep on keeping on’ in terms of eyeing another Olympic Games.

Cseh finished in 10th place in both the 100m fly and 200m IM events in Gwangju, hitting respective times of 51.86 and 1:58.17. The former event is an especially competitive one even within his home nation, with Kristof Milak and new Hungarian Szebasztian Szabo on the scene.

Milak owns a season-best of 50.95 from the semi-finals of the 2019 World Championships where he ultimately wound up 4th, while Szabo fired off a time of 51.28 last August. Cseh hasn’t been in the 51-low/50-high range since 2017, so he would have had a fight on his hands to snag an Olympic roster spot.

The 200m IM would have been a more comfortable proposition for Cseh, however, as his 1:57.79 time from Gwangju holds about a 2-second advantage over the next closest Hungarian Peter Bernek (1:59.58).

Milak Magic

It’s hard to follow-up on a World Record but 20-year-old Kristof Milak is primed to do so. At a World Cup meet in October, Milak stated about his signature 200m fly event, “I think have 10 years [left in my career]. I think I could go under 1 minute 50.”

All eyes would have been on the young talent at the nixed Hungarian Nationals, but he also would have at least gotten wet for the 100m fly and potentially the 200m free, 400m free and even backstroke events.

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9 months ago

i am so excited for seto vs milak

Reply to  Khachaturian
9 months ago

I predict seto winning 2 golds in the IM events. And a silver in the 2fly

9 months ago

I’m really hyped to see what Milak can do in the 100 fly.

With one more year of training under his belt, could he dip under 50 and really challenge Dressel?

Reply to  Joe
9 months ago

The trajectory seems to indicate that he can, though traditional Hungarian training has always lent itself better to the 200 meter races than the 100 meter races (Cseh, Hosszu, Gyurta, etc)

Reply to  Braden Keith
9 months ago

Is there such a thing as traditional Hungarian training? Do the majority of their elite swimmers follow similar programs, even under different coaches?

Genuinely curious, as I’ve never seen someone refer to a particular training style associated with an entire country — normally it’s just a specific program (e.g. USRPT with the MA camp, Gregg Troy’s high-volume style etc). Though now that you mention it, it seems Hungary has produced a lot of top mid/long-distance swimmers (Jakabos, Kapas, Kenderesi, Kis come to mind too), and relatively fewer sprinters (off the top of my head only Szabo and maybe Kozma, though he had a good 200 free in him too).

Coach Mike 1952
Reply to  Joe
9 months ago

This is a very good question Joe.

Reply to  Joe
9 months ago

The bases came from Tamas Szechy, so I think we can say it.
Can mention Kesely , D. Verraszto, in mid/long or e.g. Nemeth, Bohus, Lobanovskij (50) in sprint too.

Reply to  Joe
9 months ago

Hungarians starts the hard training quite early ages. From 5-9 lots of technics learn the basics. Between 10-14 training a lot! Around 15-17 lots of them ready to race with pro adult swimmers.

Reply to  Joe
9 months ago

Milak’s starts and underwaters are not very good but his endurance is. He would do better in the 200s. Tom Shields, Joe Schooling and Chad le Clos at their best has underwaters that can rival Dressel in the 100 fly.

Reply to  MR FLY
9 months ago

And turn-arounds, and finish. I think he is closer to 1:49 in 200 than 49 in 100.

Mr Piano
Reply to  Joe
9 months ago

Eh, just because he does 1:50 in the 200 doesn’t mean it will be easy to go 49 in the 100. One is a sprint and the other is a carefully paced event. Usually when swimmers are at the best in the 100, their 200 fly suffers and vice versa. If he switched his focus to 100 fly, then sub 50 might be possible.

9 months ago

If Milak has the endurance to do a 1:50 for 200 fly, as well as having a very fast middle distance free, and a respectable backstroke, I don’t see why he shouldn’t do 400 IM as one of his races. He must have a pretty sloppy breaststroke if he has 3 very sharp 200s and still doesn’t race IM.

Reply to  Hugo
9 months ago

His breastsroke is horrible. But as we can/could see most of our elite swimmers are/were swimming IM’s, so we never know. (IM is also from Szechy.) And Jozsef Nagy regularly in Hungary he would have some good advice. We’ll see.

About Retta Race

Retta Race

After 16 years at a Fortune 1000 financial company, long-time swimmer Retta Race decided to change lanes and pursue her sporting passion. She currently is Coach for the Northern KY Swordfish Masters, a team she started up in December 2013, while also offering private coaching. Retta is also an MBA …

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