Hungary will send only two swimmers to the 2022 World Short Course Swimming Championships, in what national team coach Csaba Sos calls partially a money-saving move.
Szebastian Szabo and Zsu Jakabos will be the country’s two representatives at the meet. Besides the cost, Sos also points to this being the last full training-block period before Paris 2024, and the disruption that going to a meet so far away would cause.
“If we were to go out, the acclimatization would be eleven days, the competition would be a week, then the re-acclimatization would be a week, Christmas would come right away, that would mean four to five weeks would be lost, and knowing the competition calendar that the World Championships will also be held in February in 2024, this is the last calm preparation period, when you can do work that can be used to level up,” said the leader of the Hungarian program.
Sos says that the country will still send two swimmers to not take the opportunity away from short course specialists: a perspective different than many of the world’s top swimming nations take, where the best long course performers are sent to the short course championship.
He also added that FINA covers the costs for 2 athletes and 2 coaches from each country, so sending Szabo and Jakabos won’t cost the federation any money.
While neither Jakabos nor Szabo have ever won a medal at the World Short Course Championships, they have combined for 15 European Short Course Championship gold medals. Szabo, for his part, won the 50 free, 50 fly, and 100 fly at the 2021 European Short Course Championships.
At last year’s World Short Course Championships, Jakabos tied for 6th in the 200 fly in her only individual swim of the meet. Szabo finished 7th in the 50 free, 4th in the 50 fly, and 25th in the 100 fly,
Szabo is the current co-World Record holder in the 50 fly in short course meters. His 21.75 from last year’s European SC Championships ties with Nicholas Santos as the fastest time ever in that event.
The cost-saving measures are part of a growing narrative in Hungarian swimming, as it is in much of Europe, amid rising energy prices. In a press release, the Hungarian swimming federation says that the upcoming period will be “extremely difficult.”
“I think Hungarian sport is facing the biggest challenge since the regime change due to the completely skyrocketing energy prices,” Hungarian swimming federation president Sandor Wladar said. “We have to work hard and lobby to keep the swimming pools open. And we can see why this is vital: due to the Covid closures, there are now a third as many competitors in the shark age group than in previous years — if a similar situation were to arise now, it would cause incalculable damage to Hungarian swimming in the long term.”
Wladar also pointed to changes in upcoming training camp schemes ahead of big competitions because of “skyrocketing” costs of airplane tickets, accommodation costs, and unfavorable exchange rates for the forint. He says that trips to the European Championships in Rome, World Junior Championships in Lima, and Open Water World Junior Championships in Seychelles cost the federation more than 100 million forints ($234,000 USD).
The forint has lost about 25% of its value against the US Dollar since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, while household energy prices in Hungary have risen about 17% in the last month, according to Eurostat.
Hungary could face further economic pressures as the result of a threatened European Union suspension over policies by Prime Minister Viktor Orban. The EU has threatened to withhold billions of dollars of funds to Hungary as the country approaches a recession, though a series of criminal and corruption reforms passed on Monday morning hope to stave off that suspension.
Hungary, like most of the world, funds its Olympic sports system using public money.
Hungary, the host of the 2022 World Aquatics Championships in long course, did not win any medals at the 2021 championships. At the prior edition in 2018, the country placed 3rd on the medals table with 4 gold and 1 silver, all won by Katinka Hosszu.