Two of Hungary’s biggest sporting stars – Katinka Hosszu and Kristof Milak – were upbeat when yesterday’s news came that athletes would again be competing for world championship medals in Budapest.

“Man, that’s brilliant,” Olympic and world champion Kristof Milak started a phone interview while at the training camp in Thanyapura, Thailand on hearing the news coming from Budapest. “As I always say, the Duna Arena is my home. It’s my pool; number 4 is my lane; that is where I train and where I win races. I have only fond memories and it’s amazing that I can go for retaining my title from Gwangju in Budapest.”

Milak’s performances at Duna Arena show that he’s certainly comfortable competing at the venue. Milak had his breakthrough moment at the FINA World Championships 2017 here as 12,000 fans watched in astonishment as a 17-year-old finished runner-up to Caeleb Dressel in the men’s 100m Butterfly. Since this global debut in Budapest, Milak has emerged as a star. This was only enhanced with his 1:50.73 blast at the FINA World Championships 2019 in Gwangju, Korea in the 200m Butterfly, a milestone performance in swimming history. When Milak came closest to this world record time it happened at – you guessed it – in the Duna Arena last year during the European Championships when he went 1:51.1.

While Milak surprised his home nation five years ago, the biggest hero of the FINA World Championships 2017 was Katinka Hosszu. Swimming at home, Hosszu maintained her hold on the women’s individual medley events by completing the golden double for the third time after also winning these events in 2013 and 2015. Hosszu went on to do this again in 2019, meaning that Hosszu will look to add to her legacy with a fifth-consecutive global IM double.  

Hosszu smiled throughout yesterday’s press conference in the Hungarian capital city as the Budapest organising committee revealed their hosting plans.   

“Let me approach this from the athletes’ side,” the nine-time world champion said. “If someone asks me which gold medal is the closest to my heart, I would say the two I claimed at the 2017 World Championships. I think the atmosphere in the Duna Arena, when the fans went crazy created everlasting memories not only for me but for other swimmers too. Just recalling this, I get excited.”

Hosszu anticipates that athletes and aquatics fans alike should expect more of the same this summer.

“This 2022 edition is a huge opportunity not only for the Hungarians but for athletes around the world,” Hosszu said. “Ask any swimmers who were part of the show five years ago and they will tell you that the 2017 Worlds were the best meet ever they had attended. This decision benefits everyone. And Hungarian swimmers can walk proudly among the others from now on as again it was our country which helped out the aquatic world as it happened a couple of times in the past.”

Taking Hosszu’s suggestion, we went back through the interview archives to see what the men’s and women’s Swimmers of the Meet – Caeleb Dressel and Sarah Sjostrom – had to say about the FINA World Championships 2017:

Caeleb Dressel, Male Swimmer of the Meet (USA)

“I have never been to a meet like this. This meet was fantastic. Especially for the Hungarian swimmers, it’s been great. I absolutely envy the amount of respect and energy that came from the stands. It was awesome. I loved the great atmosphere.”

Sarah Sjostrom, Female Swimmer of the Meet (SWE)

“And it’s so cool to have these World Championships in Budapest. I don’t think there’s any place in the world where swimming is as popular as in Hungary. The noise of the crowd in the arena has been a great inspiration.”

This June, the aquatics world will all be heading back to Budapest. The countdown has already started: there are just 129 days to go!