Kristof Milak Pulls Out of 2023 World Championships: “I’ve Hit Rock Bottom”


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.

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8 months ago

In an article in a Hungarian sports paper his coach alludes to the fact that Milak may not want to continue training with him any more come the next season. Also in Hungary there is rumours he might actually want to go and train in the United States.

Either way I am very curious to see what the future holds for him. If you ask me I think he’s gonna come back stronger than ever next year and I think we are definetely going to see a sub 1:50 200fly from him in Paris.

8 months ago

Frankly I’m not surprised. This guy is a superstar and with worlds at home with all of the expectation a year after the Olympics I’m not shocked that this young man is cooked. Good for him for having the strength and fortitude to say “Damn, I’m mentally and physically spent, I need a break.” Wishing Kristof a peaceful time off so that he can recharge and show us and himself some more amazing swims.

8 months ago

I so very much appreciate the honesty.
Perhaps the precedent Michael Phelps set along with Tom Shields, Caeleb….Peatty…others…
There was a time when these matters were hush hush.
Thankyou so much once again to SWIM SWAM for giving a forum for everything that goes on in swimming.
A big high five to all the athletes here who in the end like Kristof, are human beings pushing the envelope. Stay close!!!

8 months ago

Having Covid extend the quad by a year did this,

People had to train another year, loose the year after the Olympics where they could take a break and maybe swim worlds off limited training. Otherwise take a year off and resume during the off year without worlds.

Ceccon - Kamminga - Milak - Popovici
8 months ago

I’m so happy that Milak pulled out before the championship and that he explained why.

Wish you well, Milak!

8 months ago

Hoping he’ll get better soon, sucks to see a generational talent like him struggling. But good for Liendo, now he has a chance at gold in Fukuoka!

8 months ago

This is turning into a B meet. Kind of like short course worlds.

Reply to  Hank
8 months ago

Who else important is missing? Milak is a favourite in one event and irrelevant to relays. This year is a much stronger field than Budapest last year.

Reply to  Sub13
8 months ago

He is the key to Hungary’s qualification in the freestyle relays for Paris. He also had top 3 fastest legs in both the 4×100 and 4×200 relays at last year’s World Champs. He is very much relevant to relays. Up until now, he sould also have been considered favourite in two events (100, 200 fly). But other than that, I agree, and this B meet bullcrap talk has to stop.

Reply to  snailSpace
7 months ago

He’s relevant to his team in relays for qualification, but Hungary is not in medal territory for any relays. So when I said he isn’t relevant to relays, I meant “his absence doesn’t affect the standard that will be required to medal in any relays”.

Reply to  Sub13
7 months ago

I would say they have been in medal territory for the 4×100 free relay for the past few years. They missed bronze by a few tenths last year (I know they were 5th, but still), with a major underperformance from the 3rd leg (Bohus), who is normally around 1-1,5 seconds faster than he was then. They were 0.44 from the silver medal. Nemeth, Milak and Szabo are all reliable 47 low, 47 mid splitters. Without Milak, they should be happy to even get into the final, but I digress.

Reply to  Hank
8 months ago

B meet?

Popovici, Marchand, Stubblety-Cook, Chalmers, Wellbrock, Patrinieri, Wiffen, Finke, Romanchuk, McIntosh, McKeown, Titmus, Ledecky, R. Smith, Sjostrom, McKeon, O’Callaghan…

…and many many more…

Whatever you are smoking, please stop it.

Jack Jones
8 months ago

What if Mikak and Dressel and whoever else you want to mention don’t actually have mental health problems and really have just been missing too much training or partying too much to stay in tip top shape – and therefore risk getting beat. Maybe they were just bored, fed up, couldn’t be arsed, in love, fancied a change etc etc?

Reply to  Jack Jones
8 months ago

We get it you’ve never been a good swimmer

Jack Jones
Reply to  Bruh
7 months ago

Explain how you are defining “good swimmer” and I’ll be glad to let you know?

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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