Age group swimmers who train under Hungarian legend Tamas Daryni met two recently retired Olympic champions - Ranomi Kromowidjojo and Anthony Ervin - in Budapest.
The two FINA Ambassadors each swam at different Olympic Games, but both were 50m Freestyle Olympic gold medalists. Also in common was their medal record, each won three Olympic gold medals and one Olympic silver during their careers.
On the eve of the 19th FINA World Championships, the two FINA Ambassadors were in Budapest to meet the former Hungarian swimmer who stood on the highest step of the Olympic podium four times during his career.
As a swimmer, Tamas Darnyi was unbeaten in the individual medley events from 1985 until his retirement in 1993. Darnyi held the world record in either the 200m or the 400m individual medley events from August 1987 until September 1994; for most of that period he held both world marks at the same time. He was the Olympic champion in the 200m and 400m individual medley events at the 1988 Seoul and the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.
In 1995 Daryni launched a swim school and shortly thereafter successfully developed the Tamas Darnyi Sports Club. More than 25 years later and just two days before the 19th FINA World Championships, Kromowidjojo and Ervin arrived at the Csaszar-Komjadi Swimming Pool. Their FINA Mission was to meet and temporarily mentor more than 50 youngsters who are coached by Darnyi, one of Hungary's greatest swimming legends.
According to Darnyi, "our swim team members rarely meet athletes of Ranomi and Anthony's calibre. Once I told them who was coming they did their research by googling their biographies and the excitement just started to build until the Olympians arrived on our pool deck today." Many of the swimmers drew photos of the Olympians who would guide them in today's practice and presented them to Ranomi and Anthony. More than a few of those images were self-portraits that reflected the personal aspirations of these young swimmers. Some likely held their own dreams of a national, European, world championship or Olympic medal. Darnyi hopes that some of his most motivated athletes will attend the swimming events starting on Saturday, June 18th at the Duna Arena to watch the world's best.
One of FINA's newest ambassadors is Dutch swimmer Ranomi Kromowidjojo who won the 50m and 100m freestyle in the 2012 London Olympic Games edition. She continued her impressive campaign until her retirement in January of this year, with 89 international swimming medals in her trophy case.
Kromowidjojo explained "today we are teaching a few tips that will help swimmers sharpen their technique and improve streamlining in the water.
"Anthony and I will emphasize skills that are very important to future improvement including strong starts and the need to find a suitable pace for training and racing. There's a wide range of things that can help these young kids in the early years of their careers. We will offer some stroke drills, but the most important message to the kids will be about having fun and enjoying swimming."
"We will talk with the athletes about how to set a goal and also what happens if you don't achieve that goal," added Kromowidjojo. "But we also will talk with them about what happens if they do achieve that goal, and what's next. If there is a country that is crazy about sport and swimming it's Hungary and I know that from 16 years of competing at events in this country. This nation has always been strong in distance swimming, but I am seeing more sprinters emerging. Recently I have seen more and more Hungarian women being successful and I notice that there are more female coaches. It's delightful to see more success from women."
The USA's Anthony Ervin, then 35, was crowned the Olympic Champion in the 50m freestyle at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Ervin became the oldest individual Olympic Gold Medal winner in swimming with an eye-popping performance that was especially noteworthy considering that his first individual Olympic Gold was 16 years earlier at the Sydney 2000 Olympics where he tied for first place with American Gary Hall, Jr.
Ervin joined Germany's Florian Wellbrock at a previous FINA Ambassador Swimming Clinic in Abu Dhabi where "Florian and I encouraged the kids to explore new ways of moving faster in the water".
Ervin has been teaching young children how to swim for many years in New York City at what he described as a "foreigner-friendly multicultural swim school where I could teach children how to overcome any fears they had of the water, and eventually how to swim and to love the water. In many cases, their parents may have known that I was an Olympic Gold Medalist, but most of the children that I was in the water with may have never known who I was."
Ervin beamed with pride about "some of the kids that I taught to swim grew proficient in the sport, swimming for their high school and many for a college swim team. One of my colleagues taught a young boy not only how to swim, but also coached him all the way through high school. Before he went to college the athlete qualified for the USA Olympic Trials and now he swims at a Division 1 college swimming program."
"Hungarian swimmers are very strong and they are distance oriented," observed Ervin. "Ranomi and I joked that perhaps we might convert some into spriters, but of course, we wouldn't do that. They are still so young and it's too early to shape any swimmers' futures. But we are happy to help them move from a Dream to a Plan" continued Ervin.
Another innovative role for the Athlete Ambassadors is engaging with swimmers who are competing at the Duna arena this week. Noting FINA's first-ever election across all disciplines for the newest members of the FINA Athletes Committee, they plan to "Rock the Vote" during their visit with swimmers from many different countries. Kromowidjojo wants athletes to "vote from someone that you feel will lead the sport and will also represent the athletes' point of view". Ervin calls this "a great opportunity for FINA to align with the athlete movement that exists today".
Ervin insists "although I am no longer competing my passion for swimming success has not waned.
Motivation can be like the weather. It changes every day and everyone needs to be able to adapt.
For young people we all know that Life Isn't Easy, it's complicated and there is always a lot going on. Perhaps the high-level athlete can forget some of the other pressing issues while training. Many will find their self-worth and purpose while in the water. The pool can be a sanctuary from what's happening in the world, or at home, and that can be a very healthy experience. There are so many wonderful elements of being in the water." reflected Ervin. "These athletes know first hand from one the other best swimmers in Hungary, if not in the world, Coach Tamas Darnyi.
Darnyi has been training and mentoring young swimmers at his swim school location on Margaret Island and at the Csaszar-Komjadi Swimming Pool for more than 25 years. The two-time World Swimmer of the Year regards his victory at the 1991 FINA World Championships in Perth, Australia as the most memorable race of his career. He repeated his first world championship in the 400m individual medley title won in 1986 Madrid but shaved 2.39 seconds off his own world record in the victory.
Darnyi recalls meeting a 6-year-old boy who joined his swimming program, with his younger brother who was only 4 years old. Darnyi said, "I could see that both boys were clever, advanced and strongly confident in the water." At 15, Daniel Gyurta won a silver medal in the 200m breastroke at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. Daniel set a world record in the same event winning the 2012 London Olympics. He represented Hungary at four Olympic Games retiring after the Games in Rio. Younger brother Gergely competed in the 1500m freestyle event at three Olympics representing Hungary and also placed 11th in the 400m individual medley at Rio 2016 Olympics.
Darnyi concluded, " I will keep looking for other promising swimmers, but in fact, I have not met such talented swimmers since the Gyurta brothers joined our swim programme."