2023 WORLD AQUATICS CHAMPIONSHIPS
The 2023 World Championships will be without one of swimming’s biggest stars.
Reigning Olympic and world champion Kristof Milak announced Wednesday that he’s withdrawing from the competition, citing a lack of form both mentally and physically.
Milak issued an official statement on his withdrawal, which you can find below, translated by the Hungarian Federation:
I took a decision with a really heavy heart, and I wish to share it with everyone who loves swimming and supported me and my teammates during all the years.
I will not take part at the World Championships this July in Fukuoka – even if I loved to maintain my winning run started back in 2016, I’m not on the level either physically or mentally to race against the worlds’ best swimmers.
I’m still trying to find a satisfying answer why this had to happen – still, I know myself well enough to be aware that I’m not even close to my top shape, those 100% which is required to reach the top and I’m not the one who would be consent with anything less.
Now I’ve hit rock-bottom, but I have to emphasize that this does not come with any worries from my side. I’ve accepted this, and I honestly hope that everyone else can also do that. To see that any athlete can face a period like this in his career, when you need to step back, recharge the batteries in order to be ready for the next challenges.
While I’m still available for any administrative and other obligations top athletes may have, now I’m facing a new task – to devote this summer to quality and well-thought relaxation. This way I can restart my training and the competitions with a lot more energy, with a much better approach, so I can reach the level I’ve used to have.
Let me add that everyone around me, including my coaches Balazs Virth and Gyorgy Zala, as well as the leaders of the Hungarian Swimming Federation and my club Honved Budapest gave me tremendous support to let me leave all this behind the fastest possible and get ready for the Fukuoka Worlds. I’m really grateful for their efforts and I’m terribly sorry that I cannot be in the competition pool this summer.
I thank for the swimming community, for the Honved Family, for my sponsors and my fantastic fans for their understanding and support.
Don’t be afraid – I’ll be back soon!
Milak will relinquish the world title in both the men’s 100 and 200 fly, having swept both events on home soil at the 2022 championships in Budapest. He also won World Championship gold in the 200 fly in 2019, obliterating Michael Phelps‘ decade-old world record in the process.
Questions about Milak’s current form came into question earlier this month when the official Hungarian roster was announced and it was learned that he would only race the 100 and 200 fly individually after putting a premium on expanding out into the freestyle events over the last 12 months.
National Coach Csaba Sos said at the time that Milak’s preparation for both Hungarian Nationals and Worlds had not been going according to plan.
This past April at Nationals, Milak posted a time of 1:52.58 in the 200 fly which ranks #1 in the world, and he went 50.80 in the 100 fly (tied for #3), 48.40 in the 100 free and 1:46.68 in the 200 free.
In 2022, the now 23-year-old had an uphill battle to get to the World Championships healthy. Facing enormous pressure with the meet being held in his home nation, Milak underwent a post-Olympic coaching change and multiple pre-meet illnesses, making him doubt his ability to perform under the bright lights in Budapest.
However, he did just that, breaking his world record from 2019 in the 200 fly in a time of 1:50.34, and he also claimed the world title in the 100 fly for the first time in 50.14.
Two months later, he won his third straight European title in the 200 fly, second consecutive in the 100 fly, and also showed off his freestyle ability by winning silver in the 100 free (in a National Record of 47.47) and anchoring Hungary to gold in the 800 free relay with a 1:44.42 200 split.
After an epic clash at the Tokyo Olympics, we’ll once again miss out on a head-to-head battle between Milak and world record holder Caeleb Dressel in the 100 fly this summer, as Dressel dropped out of the 2022 championships prior to the event.
In Milak’s absence, Canadian Josh Liendo and the two American qualifiers (Dressel and Shaine Casas are the favorites) will slot in as the picks for gold in the 100 fly, while the 200 fly has been blown wide open, with Frenchman Leon Marchand and Japan’s Tomoru Honda now set for a head-to-head race for the title.
In addition to his success at the World Championships, Milak is also the reigning Olympic champion in the men’s 200 fly, and won silver in Tokyo in the 100 fly behind Dressel.
Along with being the world record holder in the 200 fly, Milak is one of just four men to have ever been under 50 seconds in the 100 fly, ranking #2 all-time behind Dressel after clocking 49.68 at the 2021 Olympics.
The 2023 World Aquatics Championships will run July 14-30 in Fukuoka, Japan, with pool swimming set to take place during the second week of action, July 23-30, from the Marine Messe Fukuoka, the same site as the 2001 World Championships.