This is my pool, here no one can beat me” said Kristof Milak last Tuesday evening after the heats of the 200m fly in Budapest, Hungary, as he threw in a 1:52.50 swim, leaving a handful of jaws dropped in the arena and around the world as well. 

Now he didn’t leave a chance for his local rivals. His 1:52.50 was a stunner, but he saved the best to the next morning as the meet was held in ‘Tokyo-mood’, heats in the evening, finals in the morning. Despite that, all swimmers opted to chase Olympic standards in the evening (in Hungary, selection is based on times achieved), following their usual biorhythm. All but one, to be precise.

Image Source: Istvan Derencsenyi

Since January, Milak not only restarted his serious preparations but switched his training regime by putting the focus on the morning sessions – and that already paid off last week.

Though the event was held behind closed doors of course, sanitary measures required the participating teams and athletes taking up pre-determined positions at the giant tribunes of the Duna Arena to enable social distancing. When Milak stopped the clock at 1:51.40 on Wednesday morning – some 10 minutes after he won the 50m free... –, the stands erupted again.

Of course it wasn’t the same as in 2017, when the roars of the 10.000 fans almost brought the house down a couple of times, still, the noise was enormous as fellow athletes and coaches all applauded and yelled in excitement as they saw Milak set the second best-ever time in history (only his 2019 WR is better than that), eclipsing Michael Phelps’ legendary 1:51.51 WR from Rome 2009 too. In fact, with these two swims, Milak now holds four of the all-time Top 10 times, just like Phelps, however, the Greatest Olympian of All Time swam three of his four top times in shiny suits in his pet event while Milak, still only 21, clocked all four in textile.

Image Source: Istvan Derencsenyi

Smiles were returning to Milak’s face during these days though upon learning that he was inside his own WR splits until 150m, he couldn’t hold back to say: “So the last 50m was a piece of sh...t. Well, this is a clear sign that I’m still undertrained.” 

All butterfly swimmers pray for a sub 1:53 swim at the Olympics – compare to Milak who thinks he is not well prepared while clocking 1:51.4... Upon running into his coach Attila Selmeci on the corridors in the backstage, he said: “Well, that was good... A good sign in an Olympic year... Though it was visible that he wasn’t at his best in the finish.” Well, well...

If this 200m fly wasn’t enough to amaze people, Milak completed a sweep in the free events from 50 to 400m, which included setting a 48.00sec new national record in the 100m (again in the morning!), ahead of home sprinter king Nandor Nemeth who owned the previous record from Gwangju where he finished 6th at the Worlds... Though Milak was not entirely happy. A telling Q&A from the mixed zone:

You look a bit unhappy.
I am! I wanted to be the first Hungarian making the 100m free under 48sec. I wanted a time beginning with 47.
You can still achieve that.
Sure, but not today.

And of course, his March marching had a very fitting end, with the 100m fly scheduled to the last day. In the final he speeded up once more to hit the wall in 50.47 – another new national record. In fact, he bettered that particular time he had set at the 2017 Worlds which was the first milestone of his already astonishing career.

I chased that time for a while but could swim those embarrassing 50.8s, 50.9s, I could not even make the podium with those at the Europeans and at the Worlds. It was high time to better that record and it had to happen in this pool. My pool
By Milak


Clocking 50.47 is alone a huge effort – would have earned him silver behind Caeleb Dressel in Gwangju –, but you may consider that it came at the end of five action-packed days which included those two 200m fly bursts, winning swims in those four free events (plus the heats in the previous days), plus a silver in the 50m fly. And all after just three months of harder trainings, as Milak put it, “now start my serious preparations for the Olympics.”

Stay tune for a flash retrospection about his best swimming moments...