The Olympic Champion, who took the home the World Champions title three times in a row since 2009 and only winning the bronze medal at the latest World Championships in Kazan has started training with a new coach since last autumn in 2016 to get in shape for the 17th FINA World Championships. Changing coaches after 20 years of training together, he is working with József Nagy now. The trainings’ intensity got higher and Dániel is pushing himself to earn the coach’s appreciation on his performance. He is said to be compete at the National Championship in April with visible signs of the changes of the training techniques. Courtesy of Gergely Csurka.
When you came out from the pool, everything happened the same as before, you smiled. Whether Dani wins or not, whether he is the first or not, the smile and intonation are always the same. Did you have a tiny feeling inside of you at Rio and right after that this isn’t happened as you had wanted or did you just say ‘let’s look forward’?
To be honest, the usual smile was on my face because I knew I did everything in order to be at my best. I didn’t feel any urge to feel sad at that moment. When I won in London, I did my very best to win in order to worthily represent my country, my family, my coach and indeed everyone who helped me in the last four years to concentrate only on the preparation and the training. There are plenty of reasons why I lost in Rio but at that very moment I did not realized deeply what did just happen. Some days prior to the competition one could have seen that my swimming is not that type of movement I was expecting myself to compete.
And after the race when you were alone with your rushing thoughts how did you sort it out? You were representing a high level, you won consecutive World Championship titles and remained undefeated and what happened in 2016, it seemed to be a little crack-like event queue.
I knew that type of knowledge, results and power which was typical of me wasn’t lost from me. I could do several times, I could make myself and everyone else proud. I can feel it now that I will be able to do the same performance as I have done earlier, even if it feels a bit out of space after my Rio results. I knew that I have to say goodbye to my coaches, no matter how painful it was or will be I have to say goodbye and start to train with a completely new approach and to prepare for the World Championships in Budapest this summer. This is the reason we parted apart with my coach trio, Sándor Széles, Ferenc Kovácshegyi and Balázs Virth who were managing my career in the last 17 years and that’s why I am continuing to work with József Nagy, who has just moved back to Hungary from Canada and worked previously at the States at most years of his career. The new point of view and attitude could push me out from the monotony which is not the unanimity of swimming but the weariness of the nearly two decades worth of work. My new coach did bring some new power and blood to our routine which was needed for me. The World Championships will be the key issue and what can I perform there-
As an outsider, one could feel the break of your typical pure preparation a little bit after the season of 2013-14 when you raced at the short course competitions. Some kind of quest started, a little cramped, perhaps with too much effort, feeling that something is not working very well. Was it like this?
This started with the successes in 2009 when I won the World Championships in Rome. This event was followed by a long and efficient period where I won every race and competition I attended, except one Short Course World Championship. Approaching the World Championships in Kazan I imposed high standards on myself to win the fourth World Championships in the row. Yes, everyone was writing about how impossible it was and it is a historical possibility; I was only listening to myself. I was longing to win, to show during that two minutes what I can push out from myself. I over trained myself, Balázs Virth and I wanted to win so badly we lost our sound, rational thinking during the training time. Nonetheless, I was in very good shape. I felt worse after the 200M final in Kazan than in Rio because I was so sure in the 2:06 result. If we did not fail our training in the last one-two weeks, I could have swim better time, I won the bronze with the 2:08.1. I wouldn’t highlight 2014 as worse period of time for me, I would choose the months after Kazan when I wanted to do a comeback. We thought it could happen in Rio.
We ran after ourselves, we couldn’t fix our issues, we made some changes in our intensity and rhythm. I missed the European Championships in London in order to focus on the training of the Olympic Games, I told myself that one week will be needed for it. These all were such a bad idea, if we look at the time results, then for sure. We, in that situation, thought that this will be the better idea and if I could do it over I would do it again without changing anything because it was my, our belief. We had a share of time results to verify our techniques. It is sport after all. If there is just a slight problem in the buoyancy, technique, everything bursts. If I am overweight with just a half kilogram, it could create huge difference in the buoyancy. There is only a short list of swimmers who can hold up their performance for long years. Like Kitajima, Marco Koch or me, we could keep up and bring the same (or better) results. The Kazakh swimmer barely got into the final, later the very same person won the competition. The breaststroke is unpredictable, there are many of us with the same knowledge.
This is a new chapter of your life. Half year has passed since you started to work with József Nagy, what are you getting from him, how different the work with him?
When we started to work together, we got together and he told me that we are nothing at this moment, we must work to be somewhere, anywhere, to that level we have conquered before, him as coach and me as athlete. We stated the work from the base. He changed the training based on kilometres and endurance to training technique based on less kilometres with higher intensity. In his opinion, we can put more focus due to my age, because this opportunity has never been exploited. This is really hard, I must say. He raises high expectations every day for me: I have to do something to make the time difference, I “earned” in 2016, go away. I have never been this tired before like after the high intensity trainings. Sometimes it its unbelievably hard to keep up the work day by day and do the training as he wishes me to do so. He is strict and consistent but kind to me during our trainings. He watches my reactions closely to use every feedback as a requirement source of the next training. I hope at the National Championship in April I can show some visible signs of the changes of the training techniques and our work of the last half year. One will be able to notice the difference in my swimming, I am damn sure. Anyone, who has seen me during my training can say there is really a difference, like night and day. Obviously, we built my training on speed not view. It will be just fine, I can feel it.
There is a restart in almost every year when you are swimming breaststroke. The technique will be rebuilt and small corrections take place even in the last minute that most people can’t recognise. However, you have your own technique that helped you to reach the top. Is it possible to forget the old methods and learn something new?
It was really hard in the beginning, it required a constant and incredible big attention from me to do the proper movements, arm, leg, head coordination and concentrate on my buoyancy in the water. I have to tell that my coach did not praise my output yet but I am striving for it every day to have it till the World Championships. He praised his athletes perhaps for times during his career. I would like to be the fifth one. It is hard, but I was proud when my coach said that my movement is almost like what he expects in January.
How much do you have to reduce your ego? You are a conscious, intelligent but a little bit stubborn guy with a lot of experience. Suddenly you became a young pupil, but you could have politely answer back that for example you would like to swim less. We know that dictatorship is a must in swimming, but it matters, if it is tough or soft.
I think if we have a common goal there is no wrangle inside or outside of the pool that would cause conflict. I consider myself a good racer type, I always do what my coach says. So it was in the period for getting in shape before Kazan. I felt that we shouldn’t have to train two weeks before the World Championships like we did. I asked Balázs and he said: believe me, this is how we have to do. I should have said that it is too much. But I did everything, because my coach asked it. Now it is the same too, even if I don’t know what is too much or too little. It is really hard to decide what is correct when you are tired and feel pain in the water. I have to defeat myself just like in the competition. I think I don’t would have reduce my ego, since – I say it again – our goal is common.
Here is Dániel Gyurta, the Hungarian swimmer and here is Ippei Watanabe, the Japanese young boy, who broke the world record with the time of 2:06.67 in January. He broke through the dream limit, since his time is under 2:07:00 for the first time. Everybody was surprised how can somebody swim like this in February, what will happen in the summer… Let’s say he set the bar high. Do you often think about you probably have to swim under 2:07:00 in the Danube Arena?
We saw it many times from the Japanese that they are capable of achieving great result before a world event. It was expected that he will reach this time. There are many of us, who almost have time under 2: 07:00. I used to be one of them, even if I couldn’t swim under 2:10:00 in the last year. The time, what this Japanese boy swam in Rio showed that he is capable of this incredible performance. He proved it, but I think I don’t have to be afraid of the time. It was good to see, that somebody can do it and it motivates all the breaststroke swimmer in the world to train harder. It is really hard to win the Olympics or the World Championships with world record in breaststroke, because it is totally different if you are the leader swimmer or six or seven swimmers are next to you and you have to watch every flutter of them to win. Expectations are rather high towards everyone, we will see in the end who will benefit from that.
Photo: FINA – Budapest2017
Source: FINA – Budapest2017