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In the latest scandal in the Hungarian swimming world, European Championship silver medalist, Liliána Szilágyi, has said that her father, himself a swimming coach, was abusing her and her mother emotionally and physically. In reaction, both her sister and her father denied these claims and accused her of lying. Szilágyi, however, lately also revealed that she was seriously considering suicide because of her suffering.

Szilágyi first talked about her suffering in a popular interview show published a couple days after Christmas, and later published the story on her social media channels too. She said that her father, a lawyer by profession who also works as a youth swimming coach, abused her and her mother for years, ranging from causal beatings to verbal humiliation, and even sexual abuse.

My father abused me. Physically, emotionally, sexually. From childhood. Constantly and unpredictably, whenever he felt like it, enjoying exercising his power over me. Whether it was corporal punishment, intimidation, withholding love and attention, or sexual abuse. My father who for many years would have done anything to accept me, to love me, until I realized I was living in a perfect illusion,”

she wrote on social media. She claims to have been living in a “shell “of what she thought was a natural, accepted situation, where her mother would be beaten up half unconscious in front of her eyes by her father if she didn’t like what she said or did. Szilágyi also claimed that her father abused her mother when she was pregnant with her, in addition to several other details about the abuse.

“In this world, I was just a tool, a perfect puppet… for the outside world saw nothing but a loving family, draped in success and world record achievements. Everyone just saw what the head of our family had beaten into us at home. We defended him and his actions with all our might, because if we hadn’t, he would have given us  consequences (…) My father will certainly have an answer to that. My father is Dr Zoltán Szilágyi, a perfectly mannered, wealthy lawyer, and children’s swimming coach, whom probably no one would believe is his true self within those four walls.”

Szilágyi’s father and sister: Liliána is lying

Soon after Liliána’s claims made it to the headlines, her father reacted by denying all the claims, promising to pursue legal action.

“You’ve been doing what you do to me for six years now, and I’ve been quietly tolerating it. [But] now that you’ve implicated your sister, and in public, I have to speak out for the first and last time – in public. Afterwards, I don’t wish to defend myself or explain myself in the press, as it cannot be defended against what you are stating, because how could I prove that I’ve never beaten or abused you, your mother or your sister…” he wrote.

“Whatever you are saying, I stand firmly by my decision made six years ago, that is, however much you may want to destroy me for this or that, or however much you may try to draw attention to yourself, I will no longer support you or your mother financially, and you both know the real reasons why. Every single false word of yours is a knife in my heart, but you are an adult and responsible for your own decisions and actions,” he also explained. Zoltán Szilágyi also demanded that Liliána not use the family name Szilágyi anymore.

In addition, Szilágyi Liliána’s 18-year-old sister, herself a competitive swimmer, also spoke up, siding with her father, suggesting that Liliána was lying. According to Gerda Szilágyi,

the horrors that Liliána Szilágyi is talking about are lies, and she knows this very well,”

she said, explaining that “I dare to say this because I have been part of this family since 2003 when I was born, and I have lived with them – so I was already very much aware of them at the time, and if these things had happened, I would have been well aware of it…”

Liliána’s suicide attempt in 2015

In her reaction, Liliána said it was needless to comment on her father’s statement. She did address her sister in an emotional statement, writing: “You know that since you were born, you are my greatest motivation. Everything that I have done and am doing is, in large part, so that one day you too can live freely! You have immeasurable strength and I know you are in a very, very deep place right now, but you are a true fighter and survivor! (…) I’m sorry if you don’t understand why this is happening now. (…) most of all, I’m sorry that you and your name are being used as a shield by our father to protect himself, just as I was. It is not your shame! I love and miss you beyond words! But I’m fighting for you. Mum and I are fighting for you in every way!”

Liliána claimed she had not even wanted to be a professional swimmer since she preferred other sports, but she had no control over her life.

In addition, she also recently made it public that she was seriously considering suicide during a 2015 holiday (one year before she finally parted ways with her father) in Israel.

I took the small knife I had inherited from my grandfather down to the beach and said to myself that this couldn’t go any further, I’ve had enough,

I’m going out here by the sea. And I just sat there, all alone, and some inner voice told me that I had nothing to lose, and now, one way or another, I was going to go away.”

Swim Coach Turi in Hot Water for Training Methods, Use of Physical Punishment
Swim Coach Turi in Hot Water for Training Methods, Use of Physical Punishment

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.Continue reading

Several proceedings to come

Liliána Szilágyi’s claims definitely won’t be without consequences. Soon after the interview and the posts were published, the president of the Hungarian swimming federation (MÚSZ) promised an internal investigation. “Shocking, astonishing, there are no words,” MÚSZ president Sándor Wladár claimed, adding that “Lilu must be protected from her father, because anything and everything can happen here.”

This would just add to ongoing legal proceedings between the parties (to which Szilágyi herself referred) and also announced by her father.

featured image via Tamás Kovács/MTI