BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungarian swimmer Laszlo Cseh has resolved to “keep going” for his dream to end his career with a golden swansong at what would be his fifth Olympic appearance in the Tokyo Games, postponed to next year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In his long career, Cseh has won almost everything except the top honour, winning individual medals at four different Olympics including four silvers and two bronze medals.
The former world and European champion had pledged to end his long career in Tokyo in July but now, quarantined in his house near Budapest, he is trying to adjust on the fly.
It’s not the first unfortunate timing for Cseh, whose peak coincided with that of the sport’s greatest performer, the American Michael Phelps.
At the 2008 Games in Beijing Cseh swam to three European records in three finals but still placed second behind Phelps, who broke the world record in all three events en route to eight gold medals.
Phelps dominated again in 2012 and in 2016. In Rio Cseh tied with him in the 100m butterfly, but Singapore’s Joseph Schooling beat them both for gold.
Cseh wanted one last chance.
“I thought 2020 would be my last year with the Olympics, but then life happened, and the pandemic proved stronger,” he told Reuters in an interview, adding quickly, “I must keep going, start training and competing soonest.”
Schedules have gone up in smoke, however, as the calendar collapsed. The European Championships, a prime Olympic prelude, were supposed to start in May in Cseh’s home town Budapest.
The new date is August - unless the pandemic rages on.
The professional swimming circuit is also a chance to get in some racing before the Tokyo Games.
“The Olympics are the ultimate goal, but I don’t know what races come before, or indeed when life as we know it restarts,” Cseh said. “I will try to pile on this one extra year. I think I can do it. Let’s just get this virus out of the way first.”
He has no idea when he can jump into a pool as the Hungarian Swimming Federation cancelled all swimming after several national team members tested positive for coronavirus.
One or two years difference in age will not make much of a difference, he said, adding he would continue his focus on the medley, his long-time speciality, as well as some butterfly.
“I should probably decide on one event and prepare the hell out of it,” he said when asked of his best chance for that elusive gold.
“But really, I just want to do my best. Nothing mysterious about it. If in the end I remain a multiple silver medallist, well, life goes on, doesn’t it?”
Reporting by Marton Dunai; Editing by Christian Radnedge