The outcry around successful swim coach György Turi is fierce after several of his former swimmers began to speak out about his controversial methods, some even mentioning potential sexual abuse. The professional, nicknamed “the Tsar,” never denied his strictness and even admitted that he had hit some of his racers, pointing to the need for results in competitive swimming. His acts probably won’t be without consequences, however, as he now faces an internal investigation.
It was László Cseh, Turi’s most successful racer, whose statement triggered the avalanche. The six-time Olympic medalist revealed in an interview given after his retirement, that Turi’s goal was “to break his athletes, which meant that not a single training session went by without someone crying. Then came the yelling, the punishments. Being hit with a stick while tying a rubber band for a training exercise. If you didn’t swim the standard time, the same thing happened in the water. Imagine you are hit at a rate of 186-192 and banged on your head with a stick. But worse than that was the mental and psychological terror.”
One of the most successful Hungarian swimming coaches, György Turi, or “the Tsar,” was training several renowned athletes in his club, Kőbánya SC, and earlier was the assistant of László Kiss (who had to leave
the swimming world in 2016 after his gang rape case from the 60s made it to the public). Some 16 Olympic and several other medals can be attributed to his coaching. At around the start of his career, he even trained five-time Olympic champion, Krisztina Egerszegi, although she reached most of her victories with the aforementioned Kiss.
After Cseh, further athletes speak out
Further athletes followed Cseh’s claims shortly afterward. Dominik Kozma also confirmed Turi’s questionable methods. According to the world and European championship bronze medalist, it quite often happened that Turi dragged someone out of the pool by the hair.
In addition, Péter Bernek said Turi had been shouting at him in an unacceptable manner ever since he was 14. He “…has two faces, the one outside the swimming pool and the one when he enters the pool area. There’s no better word for it: he transforms,” the short-track world champion also explained.
Krisztina Egerszegi’s childhood training partner, Noémi Kiss, who became a writer, also spoke of the physical punishments the coach had performed decades ago.
However, this is not the first time Turi has come under criticism for his methods. After the publication of the book titled: Me, the sex-maniac by one of his former swimmers, Nikolett Szepesi, eight years ago, a signature drive sought to clear his name, although back then most of the controversy was centered around Kőbánya SC’s masseur, who was said to have abused female swimmers on several occasions.
Szepesi, however, also spoke of sexual harassment in connection with Turi, stating that once he moved her underwear off her pubic area while she was laying down, unable to react. These charges naturally have renewed significance now.
In a worrisome development, Eszter Dara also recently spoke of some unwanted sexual advances. The European champion claimed that Turi once summoned her to his office, but instead of discussing her performance, he began to kiss Dara’s neck. In addition, it was “automatic” that he slapped or grabbed the girls’ bottoms, she also stated, explaining that “he had been working out his frustrations on us.”
Turi admits to some physical punishments
In an interview with 24.hu, made after the first statements about Turi’s behavior had been published, the coach defended himself by pointing out that decades ago different norms were in practice. He said he did have a stick, for example, but only to show where the athlete made a mistake or to fix their technique.
Talking about his yelling, he blamed the nature of swimming itself, arguing that it was necessary since not much of his instructions can be heard under water. He admitted that once he had hit Szepesi but denied the sexual allegations.
He also emphasized that he parted ways with most of his athletes on good terms.
In brief, he didn’t refute that he had been a strict coach, but he believes that that is the only way to achieve results in the highly competitive sport.
Fact In the interview, American coach Shane Tusup was also mentioned as somebody who is known for rigorous punitive and rewarding methods. The former coach (and partner) of Olympic champion swimmer, Katinka Hosszú, who has since been training several other Hungarian athletes, however, called on Turi not to confuse his views with his name. “These methods are not something I approve of or have ever used in my coaching methodology,” he wrote in reaction.
As of now, a five-member committee initiated by the presidency of the Hungarian Swimming Federation (MÚSZ) was set up to investigate the charges against Turi.
The coach said he would cooperate with the committee and announced to suspend his activities both as MÚSZ’s vice-chair and the president of the trainer’s committee.
In addition, Kőbánya SC is also giving the case their attention. The last one of his competitive swimmers, Ajna Késely, however, left Turi in the summer.
featured image via Tibor Illyés/MTI