World Championships held in years following the Olympic Games are mostly about rejuvenation and team building in water polo. The 2017 FINA World Championships for sure will witness generational changes for certain national teams in the aquatic team sport. In Hungary, there is no one who knows as much about generational immersion and opportunities as György Horkai, head coach of the national junior boy’s water polo teams since 2011. As a player, he participated in three World Championships, returning home with silver medal on all three occasions. He served as head coach of the Hungarian men’s team in 1994 at the Rome World Championships, where the squad finished at the fifth place after an unforgettably painful loss in the semi-final.
What pops into your mind first about the FINA World Championships?
First of all, that I am a three-time silver medallist! In Berlin in 1978 we clearly had the biggest chance to win, we only needed a draw against the Italian team, but we lost the match in the end. I think the Italian team was weaker than us, so were the Russians in 1975, they beat us by only one goal.
Both Cali and Guayaquil were really exotic cities, how did you experience these trips?
It was an amazing opportunity to be in these cities, but for us water polo had higher priority. There were of course interesting moments to remember, for example, in Columbia we were only allowed to go for a stroll with 3-3 police officers guarding us from both sides. Each World Championships holds dear place in our hearts, but it would have been the best ever to play at a World Championships in Budapest in front of our amazing fans, home crowds. My team, we have never had this chance to do so during our career, but I think all athletes would deserve to have this chance once.
In your opinion, what are the prospects for the Hungarian national men’s team in 2017? How will they perform at the FINA World Championships in front of home crowds?
I am sure that the organisation will be fantastic. By experience, the sporting events hosted by Hungary are always highly successful. Foreigners notice this as well, and they like attending these events here in the heart of Europe. These post-Olympic World Championships do not qualify for other directly upcoming events, so many nations rejuvenate and experiment with young players. As the host, the Hungarian men’s national team is in a special situation, everybody expects good result from the home squad. If we do not rejuvenate this time, we lose one year out of four until the next Olympic Games and although there are a lot of talented young Hungarian players, but too much experimenting can turn at the expense of the results. There will be a lot of good teams, but Serbia is outstanding out of them. At least eight teams have the chance to win the gold at the World Championships in Budapest.
How will you spend your time between July 14 and 30 this year?
I will attend as many events of the World Championships as I can. We are going to train and prepare for the World Junior Championships with the guys and organise an international tournament between the July 21 and 23 in Szombathely, Hungary. I attended the European Water Polo Championships in 2014 as well, I bought tickets for a lot of games and I’m planning to do same again!