It’s Day 1 at the 2011 Hungarian National Championships, and the name of the Day was Laszlo Cseh. Cseh won three individual silvers, all behind the mastery that was Michael Phelps, at the 2008 Olympics, and by many has been somewhat written off by many in his primary medley events. Similarly, many other Hungarian swimmers have raised their own stardom (Katinka Hosszu, Bence Biczo, etc.) to challenge Cseh’s supremacy as the top of the heap in Hungary.
But today, Cseh announced with resounding authority that he alone was the leader of Hungarian swimming, and is a big threat at this summer’s World Championships and next summer’s Olympics.
In three races on the first day, Cseh took home three titles. He started the day off with a 51.98 in the 100 fly to break his own National Record from 2009 by half-a-second. That swim moves him to 5th in the world this season, and it’s not even an event that he’s likely to swim in Shanghai. 17-year old Bence Biczo, who is the world’s best young butterflier, swam a 53.61 to finish 2nd and vault to the top of the European Junior rankings.
Cseh went on to take the title in the 200 free in 1:50.36 and the 50 backstroke in 26.13. That means that Cseh, in three first-day individual swims, won three races in three distances in three different strokes, along with a relay title in the 400 free (anchor of 50.94) and he hasn’t even hit his primary events (the 200/400 IM, 200 fly) yet. He already leads the world in the 400 IM, and if he can hold his shape through the huge number of races, then he could be scary fast there. Cseh is the best kind of swimmer, because he will take on any race, anywhere, any stroke, against anybody and thrive under the competitive pressure.
Zsu Jakabos led the way on the women’s side with a win in the 400 IM in 4:40.79, which is the 15th-fastest swim in the world this year. This was her first time swimming the race this season, but she was the 2010 bronze medalist in this event at European long course, and the gold medalist in European short course.
Also of note in the women’s 400 IM was Virginia Tech senior Erika Hajnal, who finished runner-up in 4:53.15.
In the men’s 800 free, a bit of a Hungarian darkhorse is emerging in Gergo Kis. Kis, who won this race at the 2008 European Championships but failed to medal in 2010, swam a 7:55.30 to move himself to 8th-place in the world this year. That also makes him one of only three men (the other two are both Italian) to swim this race in under eight minutes at two different meets in 2011.
Agnes Mutina (55.36) pulled off an upset in the women’s 100 free when she bested National Record holder Evelyn Verraszto (55.99). Those are season-best times for both swimmers.
Verraszto was again bested later on in the women’s 50 breaststroke, where 15-year old Anna Sztankovics took the win in 32.42 ahead of her teammate Verraszto’s 32.68. That makes Sztankovics the third-fastest junior in Europe this year and lines her up for a great medaling shot at the European Junior Championships (open to girls aged 15-16).
The women’s 200 fly was a wide-open race with Katnika Hosszu’s absence and Jakabos scratching the race due to its close proximity to the 400 IM, and Boglarka Kapas swooped in for the win. Much like Biczo on the men’s side, Kapas is the heir-apparent to the impressive women’s butterfly crew. She’ll be in a dogfight for the next few years, however, as the Hungarian women have one of the best distance-fly corps outside of the United States, highlighted by two top-10 swimmers in Jakabos and Hosszu.