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Swimming: Dalma Sebestyén thriving to breach national record in 200m breaststroke

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The primary goal of Dalma Sebestyén at the 17th FINA World Championships is to break the national record in this event. The young member of the Hungarian team is aiming at breaking the 200m breaststroke record (set by Ágnes Kovács) in Duna Arena this summer. She may draw extra motivation from the good example of her idol, Krisztina Egerszegi.

Dalma Sebestyén (aged 20) has been swimming for 16 years now since her elder brother persuaded her to go and her mother took her to the swimming pool at the age of 4.  It proved to be a good idea as swimming could channel the energy of the „little eager beaver” – as she called herself years later- and apparently she was talented in it. She did not mind going to the pool which she now considers her second home.

„When I jump in the water I feel at home. The pool is like a big family for me uniting us all. I have always found joy in training and attending competitions but there is one thing I could never make friends with: early morning trainings. I do not like getting up early and jumping in the cold water in a dark winter morning. Obviously, sport involves all this and you cannot do anything about it but put a lot of effort into training bearing your ultimate goal in mind. There are rather hard weeks, moths but results make up for hardships. Krisztina Egerszegi and other world class swimmers did not whine either.”

It is not by accident that Dalma mentioned the five-time Olympic champions swimmer. Egerszegi is her idol actually and she watched the documentary on her career on VHS hundreds of times, however, she did not have the opportunity to see „Egér” swimming live since she was born a year after the top swimmer retired from sport.

„I have seen how hard she worked and how determined she was to success. I was watching the documentary for days and days. My family remembers these video watching sessions as a sort of spiritual session for me, I was totally touched, I even imitated swimming on the couch. Later on I understood more and more of what she did, the incredible effort she had put into becoming an Olympic champion and making history. It goes without saying that my dream is to stand on the top of the podium. I still have a long way to go.. …” – Dalma Sebestyén admitted.

The beginning of this way was quite successful for sure, at the age of 14 she clinched gold in 200m medley and 200m butterfly at the European Youth Olympic Festival in 2011. A year later she finished first in 200m medley at the 2012 European Junior Swimming Championships and the following year was packed with medals, too: she claimed bronze in 200m butterfly and gold in 200m medley again. At the age of 19 she made her dream come true and qualified for the Rio Olympics, however, this time 200m breaststroke did not bring her luck. Her boyfriend, Rio Olympics bronze medallist Tamás Kenderesi helped her a lot to get over the feeling of failure and another boost came when she relocated from Székesfehérvár to Győr, where Iván Petrov swim coach is doing a great job.

„After the Olympic heat I was devastated. I just could not perform the way I had planned. If I had managed to swim my personal best, I could have made it to the semi-finals easily. I really wanted to make it to the afternoon, evening event where the atmosphere was amazing, all heats were like a fiesta featuring top swimmers. Tomi helped me a great deal to get over this negative experience” –Dalma said after the Olympics.

Having learnt the lesson, the European youth champion of Győr is consulting a sport psychologist and she knows that a professional athlete needs this kind of help from an expert in addition to the physical preparation.

At the 17th FINA World Championships she thrives to break the national record of 16 years in 200m breaststroke set by Ágnes Kovács. As she told at the end of last year, she has got the hang of breaststroke only recently, but considering the future this event is the priority.

„I have the right attitude and train efficiently, however my swimming technique shall be refined. My swimming shall be consistent all throughout the heat and it requires high endurance. The international field is quite strong but I believe I have a great potential to further improve myself. I have a strategy and I hope I can enhance my endurance so much that the end of the heat would go as we plan, and obviously the kick off shall go well, too. I definitely want to improve my best time but my ultimate goal and dream is to achieve at least the national record set by Ági Kovács at the Sydney Olympics. I cannot tell what ranking it would bring though” –Dalma told.

At the nationals this April Dalma claimed bronze. Although she had to withdraw from several events there is nothing to complain about since she did well in the training camps.

Her coach, Iván Petrov summarised this period as the following: „She is in a great form, she needs some rest and we will see how she performs. We will test 200m breaststroke in Duna Arena and then we will be ready to do the World Championships.”

„Swimming in front of the home crowd must be like a dream. The strength the audience can give us is indescribable. I had the opportunity to cheer as a spectator at the 2010 European Championships in Hungary and the atmosphere was amazing. It gives me motivation and I often need it really, getting up at 5 am is quite hard sometimes” – Dalma talked about the difficulties of early mornings and her motivation in such situations again.

In her free time, the member of the Hungarian swimmer delegation smiling ear to ear all the time enjoys painting and she is interested in photography, also. She believes she has an eye for interesting details worth capturing. She finds her studies important, she has been awarded for her skills and studies many times. She is planning to continue higher education in Győr.

Regarding the unavoidable topic she simply responds that she is really happy with her Olympic bronze medallist swimmer boyfriend, Tamás Kenderesi. At the World Championships in Budapest she wishes to do her very best so that Tokyo could follow in 2020 and finally she would go on to the Olympics.

Personal record:

Dalma Sebestyén

Born on 23 January 1997.
Top results: 2x European Youth Championships-1. (2012, 2013, 200 medley), 2x EYOF-1. (2012, 200 medley and butterfly), short course European Champs -6. (2015, 200m breaststroke)
Federation: Győri Úszó Sportegyesület
Head coach: Iván Petrov