Hungarian athletics has an unprecedented opportunity to host the 2023 World Athletics Championships. It motivates MASZ President Miklós Gyulai to serve another term as the head of the organization.
|Miklós Gyulai has revealed what he expects from the Tokyo Olympics and what results we would be satisfied with at the World Championships in Hungary. (Photo: Hédi Tumbász)|
– Are you pleased with the results at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Torun?
– This year’s indoor season surpassed all expectations. The pandemic has been going on for a year. Hungarian athletics, along with the federation and the clubs, have found a way to get through this period effectively and efficiently. According to the rankings of World Athletics, the national championship was the most successful Hungarian winter competition in the last 20 years. With István Szögi and Viktória Wagner-Gyürkés, two 30-year national records were broken. A record number of 21 athletes traveled to Torun, which could have been more because more competitors earned tickets for the event. It’s a big step forward. At the European Championships, Xénia Krizsán won a bronze medal, and six athletes reached the finals. However, everyone tried their best, which shows that we can count on them. Should we never have a worse indoor season! I need to add that the outdoor season also started strong. János Huszák won a gold medal in discus throw at the European Throwing Cup in Split, on which I congratulate him and his coach!
– What do you expect from the Tokyo Olympics?
– It’s an interesting Olympics because it shouldn’t even be now. The one-year delay came in both handy and not so handy. Krisztián Pars or Balázs Baji may not have had a chance of qualifying a year ago because of their injury, but they are now almost in perfect condition and have every chance of qualifying for the Olympics. The number of Hungarian athletes who have the chance to earn a quota is between 15 and 20. It is delightful, because the postponement has made qualifying more complex, and it is necessary to keep a good position on the leaderboard. Therefore, we have every chance of a large and well-formed Hungarian athletics team traveling to Tokyo, from where we hope to return home with nice finals results or even medals. It would be a great achievement among world-class athletes.
– What would you be satisfied with at the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest?
– We’re preparing our athletes mostly for this competition. We have succeeded in launching the flagship athletics program, which is backed by the great work of the association. I’m particularly grateful to Péter Deutsch, the director of the program, without whom we would certainly not have been able to achieve this. It is a targeted professional plan to put together the best national teams for world competitions. Its first important stage and feedback will be the 2023 World Championship in Budapest. I think Hungarian athletics can certainly produce between 20 and 30 athletes, and I hope that those who will be there will take this opportunity of their lives.
– Has Attila Spiriev, former sports director returned to the staff?
– We had to find a suitable expert to join forces for the flagship athletics program, and Peter Deutsch and I knew immediately that we wanted to win Attila Spiriev over. We needed someone who know the system, everyone knows him, and has prestige. All of this is true of Attila, adding that he not only knows the system but created it when he was the association’s sports director from 2012 to 2018. His professionalism and insight are a huge help.
– You’ve been the President of the Hungarian Athletics Association (MASZ) since 2009. What motivated you to serve another term?
– The way of progress. I think that Hungarian athletics is making great progress. The aim of our work, which started after the 2012 London Olympics, is to build a path for Hungarian athletics in the foreseeable future that could define the next 20 to 30 years. I am the co-chair of the Organizing Committee of the 2023 World Championships in Budapest, and the event is crucial because it gives Hungarian athletics a lot. It is noteworthy that the World Championships is not a goal, but a tool for us and me. I will only be satisfied if thousands of children start doing athletics in clubs as a result of the world championships, or if more Hungarian elite athletes can attend international competitions where they achieve great results, or if we can watch more athletic competitions from home and abroad on television, on different media platforms, and more people come out to watch the meets in person.
– Are you satisfied with the association’s results in the past ten years?
– Looking back, the first few years of my presidency were a period of learning, but since I have enjoyed the trust of members for more than ten years, they may not be dissatisfied with me. But this is not a one-man story. The fate of Hungarian athletics depends not only on me but also on the people of Hungarian athletics. I learned from Dad (István Gyulai – the ed.) that you need people around you whom you trust, and who put their heart and soul into the joint work. You can be any kind of president, but the organization won’t work without them. I’ve just been to Kecskemét and I’ve seen how many kids choose this sport. I’ve seen their enthusiasm and how well they’re competing. I mostly learn through those where Hungarian athletics stands. We can always improve, but I can’t be dissatisfied. What I have received from life, who I am today, is thanks to Hungarian athletics, and as long as I can, I would like to reciprocate it.
– Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in an interview with Nemzeti Sport that Hungarian athletics hasn’t shown anything yet despite funding the sport. Do you agree with the critique?
– Since Hungarian sport owes a great deal to the government’s support over the last ten years, I must regard the Prime Minister’s criticism as legitimate. But let’s look at the facts… With the combined medals from the Olympics, World, and European Championships, athletics is the fifth most successful sport in Hungary. We are also going to Tokyo with ambitions. We expect a podium finish, and we may have our 11th gold medal. A World Championships on home grounds can be an enormous boost for the sport as we have seen how the 2017 World Aquatics Championships had a long-term beneficial effect on Hungarian swimming. The current opportunities and conditions of Hungarian athletics are much more modest than those of the sports ahead of us in the imaginary rankings. For example, we don’t have a permanent home stadium for a prestigious international competition, and we try to compensate for the shortcomings with temporary solutions. But the good news is that the golden age of Hungarian athletics may now come. The World Championships is not limited to the ten days only during which the best athletes in the world compete in Budapest. We have now had the opportunity to launch courses that will determine the future of Hungarian athletics for years, even decades. Not only our sport will be the winner, but also the entire Hungarian sports. The National Athletic Centre will also be a unique facility in the world, that is open not only to competitors but also to everyone. The National Athletic Centre will also be a unique facility in the world, that is open not only to competitors but also to everyone. It will have a positive impact on sports and health for the whole society. So, we’re already there, banging on the door that Hungarian athletics will kick in in 2023!
Translated by Vanda Orosz