The chances for Budapest and Balatonfüred to host the biggest World Masters Championships in the Event’s history are really high! Since the registration process kicked off thousands of athletes signed up in the FINA General Management System. At these jamborees, representatives of masters age groups show their passions about aquatic sports, their commitment towards a healthy lifestyle and fair play. Together with the accompanying persons, family members and friends, tens of thousands will arrive in Budapest and Balatonfüred, making the Event a great touristic boom for the nation as well. In addition, fans will be able to watch previous Olympic, World and European champions of the various disciplines at the magnificent venues for free between August 7 and 20 this year, during the 17th FINA World Masters Championships.
Anyone who is above the age of 25 (30 in water polo) can compete at the FINA World Masters Championships, just have to be a member of an aquatic sports club that is registered with an FINA-affiliated National Federation.
Currently, the Italian city of Riccione holds the attendance record of the Event: 12 671 athletes competed there in 2012. Based on the forecasts, Budapest and Balatonfüred can outshine this number. Since the registration platform – the FINA General Management System – opened just a week ago, more than 2500 people started the process on-line sign-up process.
Swimmers will compete at the brand new Dagály Aquatics Arena and at the legendary Alfred Hajós Swimming Complex. World Masters silver medallist and two-time European Champion Dóra Cerva will compete in the 100m and 200m butterfly, 400m freestyle and 200m individual medley events in Budapest this year, as well as in the and in 4x50m mixed freestyle and medley relays.
‘The 200m medley is not sure yet, although this event is close to my heart as I won the silver medal in Riccione. My first international Masters event was the European Championships in Cadiz, in 2009 where I won the gold in 100m butterfly as I did in London, last year as well. In Spain, I collected two silvers also, while in London my tally consisted of one silver medal and one-fourth placement. I care more about the time result than the placement, I always try to be faster and faster.’ – added Dóra, who also talked about her motivation.
‘This Masters journey has not been a lonely one. We went to Cadiz together, my husband, my two children and my parents, the whole family, so that event was a summer vacation for us – and besides that, I swam a little. We usually put some days before or after the event wherever I compete, and the World Masters Championships is always an adventure for all of us. Of course, we love winning and racing is especially exciting but the main goal is to enjoy ourselves. It is also magical to race in the same venue where the professional athletes do before. Last year I watched the superstars at home on television but one week later I competed in the same pool. It is crazy…’ – Dóra Cerva expressed her joy about FINA’s decision which allows hosting the Masters Event together with the FINA World Championships.
Andrea Szeghalmi will arrive in Budapest from Transylvania, Romania and compete in the breaststroke swimming events, she was silver and bronze medallist at the national championships back in 1988 and in 1989.
‘I decided to take part in the World Masters Championships the moment I heard it will be in Budapest. The city is very close to us and a lot of our friends live there. The 50 and 100m breaststroke events are in my plan of course and I will participate in the 800m freestyle too – an event that my coach never allowed me to race before. Now I will make up for it and we also plan to compete in the 4x50m freestyle and medley relays, too. My first FINA World Masters Championships was in Montreal, in 2014 I didn’t go there to win, just wanted to enjoy myself. My motivation is the same now, I have not don’t have a lot of time to properly prepare for the races” – said Andrea who coaches children in theTirgu Mures Sports School Club (Marosvásárhelyi Sportiskola).
‘My goal is to show a good example to my daughter and to my swimmers in the club, I think I have been successful in that so far. We compete in a very special atmosphere, athletes come from all around the world to look for new friendships. It is awesome, sometimes even little miracles happen. Last year in London I met one of my old teammates who competing in Germany. We talked about the races and our wish was to swim in the same event and in the same heat.
And we were able to do it… in the 50m breaststroke event, we were in the same heat, that was fantastic.” – remembered Andrea Szeghalmi.
Fans will definitely have the chance to meet former great aquatic stars in the different disciplines of the 2017 FINA World Masters Championships from 7 to 20 August, but the most spectacular athlete of the event will be beyond doubt the 96-year-old Hungarian swimmer, Béla Bánki Horváth. The 18-time World and 29-time European masters champion will attempt to win some more medals this time in front of home crowds.
‘Of course, I would like to win some more gold medals. I have not decided yet in which events I will start. I am too old to travel to such a big event alone, so last year I was accompanied by one of my grandchildren to Kazan, and I will need the help of my elder daughter and my grandchild in Budapest this year.’
Béla Bánki Horváth, who also played water polo in the first division of the Hungarian League, decided to take part in masters swimming competitions following his retirement.
His first FINA World Masters Championships was the one held in Indianapolis in 1992, where he won a gold medal at the age of 72.
‘I have two mottos: the first one is: I will swim until I die because until I swim, I am alive. The other one is: I swim because I am healthy, but actually I am healthy because I swim. A well-known professor in the city of Szeged likes and uses this phrase, which suggests there is something to it.’
The Hungarian masters divers have already highlighted several times that the elite and the masters Championships will trigger a huge development in this sport. The development process is showed by the setup of the ‘Bubble’, which gives the opportunity for the first time to train during wintertime. There will be a lot of competitors at the World Masters Championships as well.
The masters Champion, Szilvia Sárközy will compete in the age-group over 40. She was 16 years old when her father brought her to the “Dagály Strand” (Dagály Pool Complex) to show her the basics. This year, the three-time European and World champion Szilvia can compete at the building next door, the Dagály Aquatics Complex.
‘I just cannot wait to step on the same springboard and dive as the stars of the FINA World Championships will have done days before. It is a unique opportunity that we can compete in the same venue, moreover, our children can watch us as well. My seven-year-old daughter, Sára has been amazed by diving for a year. I will enter seven events, and my goal is to win the gold medal in the 3m springboard event. Although it will not be easy because the American and Russian divers are very hard to beat! The mixed duet will be very unique, it will be more fun because we start for the first time. I train two times a week, but the most important is that I can keep my heart and soul in good shape even over 40. The freedom is the best feeling what I got in the air and in the water. It’s not a surprise that the number of masters divers keep growing continuously.’
There are three cities, Balatonfüred, Siófok and Keszthely around the Lake Balaton which have been applying for the non-official capital status of the region, but one thing is for sure: during the summer of 2017 Balatonfüred will be in the limelight thanks to the FINA World Championships and the FINA World Masters Championships. Competitors will have to swim a 3 km-long lap in Central Europe’s largest freshwater lake.
Thousands of masters swimmers, their attendants and family members from all around the world are expected for the event, so Balatonfüred will be a real multicultural city in that period.
According to Levente Nagy-Pál – coordinator of the open water swimming competition – the huge interest is guaranteed: Germans, Italians, French, Spaniards and Russians come from Europe with a large number of competitors, but many people from Brazil and the US, for example, will swim in the Lake Balaton, too.
‘A lot of people connect their sports experience with the surroundings: the charms of Hungary, Budapest and Lake Balaton are very attractive. The audience will be able to watch the competition from much closer, it will be a very impressive event to be part of.’
Levente Nagy-Pál does not only work as an organiser, he himself will enter the 10km event.
“The most fun is to meet again with those I used to swim together – these Championships will bring us together.’
The former Hungarian champion swimmer, Dr. Marcell Grundtner -currently the operative director of the Budapest 2017 OC – will also be there among the competitors. He will test himself not just in the open water, but at the Dagály Aquatics Arena also. In his view, the record of participants can be easily broken this year in Hungary.
‘The swimming competition programme has the biggest interest. In the first days of registration, athletes have already registered 3251 entries. In Kazan, that number was 210 during the same period. The competitors are ‘hungry’ for a great international competition and these World Championships will be an example of this. In addition, Hungary has an excellent attractive value for tourists, and the venues and facilities of the World Championships are gorgeous.’
Synchronised swimmers will compete at a breathtaking location during the Championships, on the Lake of the City Park (Városliget), next to the world famous Vajdahunyad Castle.
Júlia Győri from used to practise synchro professionally for 15 years. She is a several-time national champion and has been on the Hungarian national team seven times throughout her career. She competed at both the 2006 and 2010 European Championships in Budapest, where the home crowds cheered unforgettably. It is almost unbelievable, but every single athlete from the Hungarian teams that participated in those European Championships will compete at the World Masters Championships in Budapest this summer. Júlia Győri has a special, additional motivation factor as well because she is a mother of two young children.
‘In 2006, I was only 17 and this was my first big international competition. Nobody really knew the power of Hungarian synchronised swimming, neither us. It is unforgettable to compete in a full arena. The fans were already cheering standing up as we walked in. The speaker even needed to emphasise that the audience needs to sit down before the performance can start. After our event, we gave many-many autographs for hours. I know we will have another great experience at the World Masters Championships. It gives me a huge boost to jump into the pool in front of my two beautiful children and to show my husband why I am in love with this sport for more than 15 years. Back then, we felt that every minute of the practice was so hard. Nowadays, we enjoy every second of it. Competing in the City Park in front of home crowds and family will be like a fairy tale.’
Two-time Olympic champion and World champion Attila Vári will participate in the World Championships not just as organiser of the water polo discipline’s tournament, but perhaps as a player, too.
‘At the FINA World Masters Championships, we have to serve a lot more competitors than during the FINA World Championships, while the Event has strong touristic aspects as well.’
His son was just one-year-old and his daughter was not even born yet when the Hungarian men’s national water polo team won their second consecutive Olympic gold at the Athens Games in 2004 – with Attila Vári on the team.
‘When my kids were younger they came to my games to see their daddy playing. Obviously, it is not the same as if they saw me today with their more maturity. The World Masters Championships is truly a very good family and community-building event.’
The 17th World Masters Championships will begin in exactly six months, on August 7, 2017. The first day of the competition programme will already see events in diving, synchronised swimming and water polo. General admission is free of charge for all spectators.
Photo: FINA, MTI
Source: Press release – fina-budapest2017.com