Hungarian champion looks to regain her hunger

Pic by Balint Vekassy

Krisztina Fazekas-Zur felt on top of the world after helping her Hungarian teammates to a K4 500 gold medal in Rio last year, but she also felt really tired.

The 36-year-old had just won her second Olympic gold, having triumphed in the same boat four years earlier in London, and she was looking forward to taking some time out.

This weekend she’s competing at the ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup 1 in Montemor-o-Velho, the start of her 26th season in the sport.

She had to work hard on the opening morning, finishing fourth in her K1 500 heat and having to rely on a top-two finish in the semi-final to lock up a place in the final.

“It’s very good that I’ve made the final,” Fazekas-Zur said.

“I have felt better, but it is only early in the season so I hope with every race I will get better.”

It’s never easy for an athlete to get straight back into action after a gruelling Olympic campaign, even if, like Fazekas-Zur, you’ve done it all before.

In fact that maybe makes it harder, because you know what lies ahead. And post-Rio, Fazekas-Zur found it anything but easy.

“For me, this year has been a bit difficult,” she said.

“I started very late. I needed a bit of a rest and to get out of the water. But I have found my motivation, so I just need to follow my instructions and the training program and trust it.

“I’ve trained very hard this year, but a little bit less than last year because it was the Olympics.” 

Fazekas-Zur only got back into heavy training in January, and after getting past those first few tough training sessions, feels she is on track.

“I expect myself to be in good shape this year, but it’s taking me a little bit longer to get there than I expected,” she said. 

“But we have selections in five weeks so that will be the most important for me.”

By the time of the Tokyo Olympics Fazekas-Zur will be sneaking up on her 40th birthday. Obviously she thinks about getting to a third Games a lot, but she prefers to not look too far ahead these days.

“Obviously I am not getting any younger, so now I am thinking just one year ahead,” she said.

“But in the back of my head, Tokyo is there. I will have to see how it will go.

“In Hungary its very difficult because we have so many younger, talented athletes, so it is always  pressure on us because it is not possible to get easier here.

“Everyone here is so hungry and want to show, which is a very good thing for the country, but maybe not for me.”

Fazekas-Zur these days calls the United States home, having moved their with her coach husband, Rami Zur, in 2010. After a brief stint representing the US in 2010 and 2011, she switched back to Hungary and went to the London and Rio Olympics.

The sprint canoe community in California is a world away from the national obsession the sport enjoys in Hungary, but Fazekas-Zur says that’s not a bad thing. 

“I think it’s for me a bit of an advantage to be out of Hungary,” she said.

“It is more relaxing and you are not all the time in the competition atmosphere.”

The ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup 1 continues in Montemor-o-Velho over the weekend.

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