Gergely Csurka, FINA Media Committee Member

The second day of the 2nd edition of the FINA World Junior Open Water Swimming Championships turned into a great festival as Hungary’s two competitors, Nikoletta Kiss and Flora Sibalin made a 1-3 finish in the junior girls’ 7.5km event, attended by Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orban. The youth boys’ 5km title went to Taylor Abbott of the USA.To demonstrate the level of appreciation of aquatics in Hungary, soon before the start of Day 2, Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrived to the venue. Accompanied by Lajos Kosa and Tamas Gyarfas, Chairmen of the Organising Committee for the 2021 FINA World Championships, Viktor Orban was welcomed by FINA Honorary Secretary Paolo Barelli and FINA Executive Director Cornel Marculescu who also attended the championships. The Prime Minister visited the promotion pavilion for the 2021 event – the instalments will make their international debut at the year-ending FINA World Aquatic Convention – then Viktor Orban became part of the show as he shot the starting pistol for the junior girls’ 7.5km race.From left to right: FINA Executive Director Cornel Marculescu, FINA Honorary Secretary Paolo Barelli, Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban and FINA Vice President Tamas Gyarfas - Photo credit: Aniko Kovacs

Actually, this might have been regarded a sign for the local competitors to come up with something big and they delivered. Hungary’s Nikoletta Kiss and Flora Sibalin cooperated during the entire race while keeping up with the other two rivals, Great Britain’s Alice Dearing and Russia’s Anastasiia Azarova. These four escaped from the pack after the half-way mark and staged a rather exciting battle featuring everything open water could offer. The Hungarians and the Russian all received a warning during the fight, while Dearing tried to set the pace.

However, soon before the end of the penultimate lap, Kiss launched a long finish and she was right: Dearing couldn’t stay close, only Azarova tried to catch her but Kiss was able to maintain her speed and won a thrilling finish which saw the four competitors hitting the pad in a span of five seconds.

Nikoletta Kiss (HUN) - Photo credit: Aniko Kovacs

“It was a huge duel with the Russian girl but I didn’t want to give up the position I had fought for”, Kiss said.

“I didn’t plan to go in front at the beginning, the British tried to win the race with leading all the way but it was only our legend, Eva Risztov who could apply these tactics successfully (in London 2012). I thought, here, among the juniors no one was as strong as her and it turned out I was right. I recognised I had to switch gears sooner than I planned but it worked. I’m over the Moon now as I could win in the ‘Hungarian sea’ in front of our great fans!”

Flora Sibalin was also really happy: “At the Europeans in July, I tried what the British girl attempted today and I learnt the lesson that I couldn’t do that, so I stayed back and waited for the occasion. I wished to finish in the top six so I’m really happy with this bronze medal now.”

The youth boys’ event also produced some thrilling moments. Taylor Abbott of the US went ahead after the first lap and in fact he could win the race leading the field for most of the time. Through three laps his chasers changed from time-to-time, in the finish the two Chinese proved to be the strongest ones but not even they could pass him in the finish and Abbott – making Tarzan-like yells triumphantly after getting out of the water – clinched the title with a 4sec advantage, ahead of Jintong Yang and Zhongyi Qiao.

“I didn’t expect this, it’s a fantastic feeling to come first at the World Championships. Definitely it should be a great starting stone of a fine career” Abbott said while smiling soon after the victory ceremony.

Taylor Abbott (USA) - Photo credit: Aniko Kovacs (HUN)

This also meant that the four individual titles went into four different countries – Russia, China, Hungary, USA – so all can look forward to see two brilliant and exciting team events as a conclusion of the championships on Sunday.

Medallists Day 2:

Junior girls (aged 17-18), 7.5km

1. Nikoletta Kiss (HUN), 1:32:42.27
2. Anastasiia Azarova (RUS), 1:32:43.73
3. Flora Sibalin (HUN), 1:32:46.53

Youth boys (aged 14-16), 5km
1. Taylor Abbott (USA), 56:13.32   
2. Jintong Yang (CHN), 56.17.64
3. Zhongyi Qiao (CHN), 56.18.33

Beautiful scenario at Lake Balaton - Photo credit: Aniko Kovacs