Thanks to Kristóf Milák's gesture, Richárd Márton (left) was able to stand on the top step of the podium before the anthem (Photo: MTI)


Well, this statement is not quite true. Here in Rome, and especially after the 200m butterfly semifinals, we have already played with the idea of two Hungarian medalists finishing on the podium in this event at the European Championships.

Sándor Wladár, the president of the Hungarian Swimming Federation, definitely played safe as he signed up for this event at the results announcement and then caught a double.

This double had a story of its own (and will continue to do so in the future...).

It started with Milák promising on Monday to pull Márton up onto the podium if „Ricsi was there mentally. Because not only am I needed for that but him as well.”

Milák did his best, leading and pulling the field from the very beginning.

Whoever could catch up, followed him - and Richárd Márton could catch up, although at the last lap it didn't look like it would be a double Hungarian success.

„At the last lap I saw that Ricsi was behind, but I hoped he could catch up,” said Milák.

 – That Milák would win the 200m butterfly was no doubt, but Richárd Márton's silver medal was perhaps beyond your wildest dreams.
– When Kristóf reached the finish, there was a great silence, then Ricsi arrived, and the frenzy ensued. Everyone was waiting for Ricsi to win a medal - even Kristóf Milák," said Balázs Virth, coach of Kristóf Milák and Richárd Márton.
– During preparation, did you play with the idea that Richárd Márton could win a medal in the 200m butterfly in Rome?
– Ricsi was very motivated, he enjoyed the training sessions mostly because he felt he was improving. He had two deadlocks in his preparation, but he came out of both, and believing in himself helped him all the way. And he didn't always work with Kristóf, he often trained alone, doing what he needed to progress. We were thinking of a 1:55 time beforehand, but after the semifinals, we could see that he could break it. We were thinking of a medal, but more of a bronze, therefore, a silver was a surprise for us too.
– Kristóf Milák's victory in the main event was according to the paper form.
– This is true, but Kristóf can be very satisfied with his performance in Rome. Apart from the medals, he is also happy because he made it to the semifinals of the 200m freestyle without a dead heat. He did his job professionally and then showed on the last day in public that he can be a great human being. Kristóf is a true professional.
– Does this make the job easier or harder, as many people are expecting good and even better results?
– It will be harder because a World Championships is coming up, so Ricsi Márton will have to fight with, for example, Tamás Kenderesi to make the team. Kristóf Milák will continue to focus on more events, and we also need to get Boglárka Kapás back on her feet - we won't be bored.

„I knew I would have the strength for the finish, and I knew that the Italian Alberto Razzetti would not. Also, I kept thinking about the time when our coach Balázs Virth made me watch Dani Gyurta's Olympic final in London because he said that Dani swam not only with his heart and soul, but with everything, and he explained to me how to finish well in the end. I think I learned my lesson,” Márton added.

Indeed, Márton, who has already won a gold medal here in Rome as a member of the 4×200 relay team, did a really amazing job.

„I didn't care what time I swam, I reached the finish and turned around. I had to wait a little for the others to finish, too," Milák said with a grin in his usual confident manner. "I was thinking of a bronze for Ricsi, but I'm very happy that it was silver.”

"But after the semifinals on Monday, you said that it wouldn't surprise me if I cast the anchor in the final,” Márton reacted.

"Of course, I said that. You can jump really high from a low level," Milák replied.

After Richard Márton had helped him climb out of the pool...

Then Milák bowed - first to one of the stands, then to the other.

Then he put his arms around his friend and teammate, and they marched in pairs through the mixed zone.

And to the medal ceremony, too.

After receiving the medals from Moscow Olympic champion, Milák came and, with the aforementioned gesture, pulled Márton to the top of the podium, and they listened to the anthem side by side.

„I have to take on this mentoring role, and I can do it. As the best swimmer and one of the best athletes in Hungary, I have to do it,” said Kristóf Milák. „I expected that there will come a time when I will be asked questions when I will have to whip people around me in shape, but I enjoy it, and I think I will continue to enjoy it.”

Also, he will enjoy the fact that he is taking on more events in world competitions because Milák aspires to go even higher. To the comment, which is heard from more and more places, that the world has not seen such a Hungarian male swimmer since Tamás Darnyi, the 22-year-old classic only responded in one sentence: „And you haven't seen everything yet."

Milák did not go into details for the time being („You will see everything in time anyway, and I never make promises."), but he did say that he is looking forward to the 200m freestyle and, of course, to David Popovici of Romania.

„I want to prepare well for the 200m freestyle, I have goals in other events besides butterfly," said Milák. „I don't want to let my opponents go anywhere, I want to put a good pressure on them, and I don't want them to get too comfortable. I need them to feel the constant care."

The care, in a good way, that Richárd Márton could feel all the time: already during the preparation and also at this tournament in Rome.

„This is all new to me," Richárd Márton admitted. „I don't really understand it, but of course I like it. The fact that I'm here is also thanks to the people around me. For example, Tamás Horváth and Attila Selmeci, my former coaches, gave me a good foundation. And I owe a lot to Balázs Virth, as well as my parents, who have always been there for me. And of course, Kristóf Milák - I don't think he talks about how much he helps me during my preparation, but it's true. I've heard people call me a world-class swimmer, which I am not yet, but I'm doing my best to be that. My goal is to get used to that word."

And while this will not be an easy task (even if head coach Csaba Sós said of Márton's performance in Rome the following: „Ricsi didn't open the door, he kicked it in!"), although the encouragement he received from his mentor will help.

The mentor, whose name is Kristóf Milák.

Who's been a world-class swimmer for quite some time.

Translated by Vanda Orosz.