The interview, published in Hungarian, spans a number of topics, including Tusup’s experience training Hungarian flyer Liliana Szilagyi and his previous conflicts with Hungarian swimming clubs and officials.
“There are some things I regretted,” Tusup said, in a rough translation from Hungarian. “I could have sat down with some people to clarify this.”
Tusup admits that at times he had “not handled certain situations well.” But he also notes that he was a young coach, involved in “the biggest project of my life” and learning much about coaching on the fly.
“The stress was huge,” Tusup said. “After all, it wasn’t just about my own career, but my career was also influenced by another person’s career.”
Tusup says he reached out to Sandor Wladar, the president of the Hungarian swimming federation, to bury the proverbial hatchet in what was at times a contentious relationship.
Tusup rose to prominence in the world of swimming as the coach of his then-wife, Katinka Hosszu. While training under Tusup, Hosszu won three Olympic gold medals in 2016, while piling up World Championships medals and effectively monetizing the sport of swimming like few other swimmers have. Hosszu was dominant for years on the World Cup tour, amassing huge prize money windfalls while building a brand as the “Iron Lady” of swimming.
But Tusup’s polarizing style also drew harsh criticism. One notable incident took place at a youth swim meet, where Tusup was coaching age groupers with the Iron Aquatics program. During a relay event for 10- and 11-year-old girls, Tusup exploded into a profanity-laced tirade, yelling “f*** you” and raising his middle fingers at an official. Tusup later took to social media to defend his conduct, saying he took issue with what he considered an unfair start and felt he needed to protect his athletes, comparing himself to a renowned professional basketball coach ejected for yelling profanities at an official.
In the Eurosport interview, Tusup says he’s often felt like he’s an unwanted person within the sport, and that within Hungary, he felt he was asked to be an “open book” about his unique training methods without reciprocation of information from other coaches.
“Of course, we didn’t want to reveal our secrets,” Tusup said. “I had, say, intellectual property as a coach.”
Tusup says he departed from the traditional Hungarian system of training, but that both his system and the traditional Hungarian system were effective, and could have been further improved by the mutual sharing of information.
“True, the Hungarian system is really great, everyone imitated it, everyone followed and analyzed it,” he said. “But I approach things differently, my program is built differently, it works differently. Why not even combine the two, why not sit down and listen to each other, analyze what the other has to say?”
According to Tusup, he was willing to exchange information, but felt he was being asked to “act like an open book,” when other coaches wouldn’t be as forthcoming with him.
Tusup and Hosszu split both personally and professionally in 2018, and Tusup does not mention Hosszu by name in the interview. Since then, Tusup spent some time away from swimming pursuing a career as a professional golfer with the World Long Drive Association. He eventually returned to the sport to coach Italian IMer Ilaria Cusinato and launched a YouTube series to document their training, but then he and Cusinato parted ways about nine months later. Tusup is still coaching Hungarian butterflyer Liliana Szilagyi, and he talked some about her training in his interview, along with a few other subjects:
- “Lilu is very intelligent,” Tusup said. “She can’t do monotonous workouts.” He said racing is a cornerstone of his program, and the lack of competitions during the coronavirus pandemic was a struggle. But Szilagyi’s swims at the 4 Nations meet last month were a promising sign. “Her eating disorders are a thing of the past, and it’s amazing how professional she has become,” he said of Szilagyi.
- Tusup said he believed early on that the 2020 Olympics should not be held as scheduled during the coronavirus pandemic. He said his training group was “relieved” that the Olympics had been postponed, and the extra year of preparation gave he and Szilagyi more time to dial in their training program.
- There were wrinkles to his training of Szilagyi in the early goings. Szilagyi belongs to the Fradi club, otherwise known as Ferencvárosi TC. Most athletes within Fradi have their own coaches, Tusup says, but the club’s process of allowing Tusup to work with one of its athletes was slow. “It took a month before we heard anything from them,” he said. “They then applied and said they didn’t want to work with me.” Eventually, the parties came to a rough compromise, but Tusup says he was still unable to use Fradi facilities for awhile, and meet accreditation remains “chaotic.”
- Tusup notes that he is now working with the goalkeeper of the Fradi football (soccer) team, and is hoping that helps him become more officially affiliated with the club.