One of the most successful Hungarian swimmers ever, László Cseh finished his career in seventh place in the 200m medley at the Tokyo Olympics. Even winner Wang Shun bowed his head to the legend after the race. It was the fifth Olympics of the six-time Olympic medalist. Cseh says he is finishing his career with peace in his heart, will concentrate on his civil life and won’t turn up by the pool for a while.
It was known well before the Olympics that this would be the last competitive appearance for the 35-year-old, who was hit hard by the postponement of the Olympics.
Although he felt no pressure to win at his last Olympics, he still didn’t come to Tokyo for sightseeing, making his way to the final in 200m medley, postponing a holiday with his wife, arranging his garage, and renovating his home, as he jokingly noted after his qualification from the semifinal.
László Cseh is arguably one of the best swimmers (or the very best, according to Swimswam
) who has never won an Olympic gold. Unfortunately for him, the peak of his career coincided with that of the sport’s greatest performer, American Michael Phelps. In Beijing 2008, for example, Cseh swam to three European records in three finals, and placed second in all three behind Phelps, who broke the world record in all three events. The American dominated again in the next two games. In Rio 2016, although Cseh tied with him in the 100m butterfly, Singaporean Joseph Schooling was faster than both of them, again depriving Cseh from the top medal. Still, he is definitely one of the most successful Hungarian swimmers of all time, a double World Champion (among many silvers and bronzes), and a 33-time European champion too.
“After I woke up, it hit me that this was going to be my last swim, I got to be a bit emotional too, but that doesn’t mean bad feelings at all!”, he said about his morning preceding the final.
Eventually, he came in seventh, 2.68 seconds after the aforementioned Chinese swimmer became the Olympic champion. Trying to congratulate the winner, instead it was Cseh who was celebrated after the race. Despite being satisfied to be in the final, he was still critical with his time and breaststroke there, although he said he could accept this and concentrate more on the positive side, since he feels his personality has developed a lot in the meantime.
In response to a question about what he would take home from Tokyo, Cseh said
the fact that I can stop swimming in peace is very important. Before my race started, I realized that I should be grateful to be here, because it gave me closure.”
“Had I watched this at home on TV, I’m sure I would have been angry with myself, ‘I can do this much too, why am I not there?!’ That would have been in my head for the rest of my life, but this way I can close it off,” he said.
In an attempt to sum up his career, Cseh said:
I wish all such a beautiful end and so many Olympics! I still don’t really feel what I have achieved over the years.”
“I’m only very slowly beginning to realize that it’s not just the bad swims, like fifth places that happened, but also lots of good results, but I tend to sweep those under the rug and only focus on the ones that aren’t good enough. I don’t make myself feel how many wonderful results I have achieved. This is because I was taught that if you are good, that is natural, if you are bad, it is your fault. I have been dealing with this a lot in the past.”
While he would do his cool-down exercises regularly, otherwise he would feel sick for days afterward, he wouldn’t have his regular post-race protein shake “as there is no reason to anymore.”
Cseh also revealed he won’t turn up by the pool for a while and will live the pensioner’s life, including a holiday, distance from swimming, finally enjoying not waking up to his alarm at five o’clock, arranging things at home, then “we will see.”
Featured photo by Tamás Kovács/MTI