Two gold and a stunning world record at the FINA World Championships in Budapest as well as three European crowns in Rome saw Kristof Milak claim his second Male Athlete of the Year Award in Hungary.
Milak last secured the award in 2019, when he shocked the aquatics world by bringing down Michael Phelps’ iconic 1:51.51 WR in Gwangju, South Korea, with a new landmark time of 1:50.73.
Three years on he managed to lower that further with a new mark of 1:50.34 while winning the 200m fly in front of 5,000 delighted fans in Budapest at the FINA World Championships last June.
This, plus his first-ever 100m fly world title, then his best-ever medal-haul at the Europeans – 100 and 200m fly + 4x200m free golds and silvers in the 100m free + 4x100m free relay – gave him the platform for another national success.
It was all the more impressive given the strength of his Hungarian opponents, with Milak finishing ahead of his nation’s first-ever individual Winter Olympic champion Liu Shaoang, who won the 500m event in short-track speed skating in Beijing 2022.
WATCH MILAK WIN 200m EUROPEAN GOLD AT ROMA 2022
There was the Magyars’ other household name Aron Szilagyi, the magician fencer, who won three straight individual Olympic golds in sabre (his third victory, in Tokyo, pushed him ahead of Milaklast year in this same voting) – and now he claimed his first individual World Championship victory and further medals in the team event.
However, Milak’s super-impressive summer performance weighed more among the voters, members of the Hungarian Sportswriters’ Association.
Attended by legends of the Hungarian sport, including the oldest living Olympic champion, 102-year-old gymnast Agnes Keleti, and 90-year-old Valeria Gyenge, winner of the 400m free at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, as well as State President Katalin Novak and other nobilities, the gala offered a spectacular show as usual.
“I predicted a second place for myself so it’s a pleasant surprise that I was voted first” Milak said afterwards.
“I’m so happy and proud – and also a bit stunned so I looked for words on stage and that’s why I lost them for a while during my speech.”
The reigning Olympic, world and European champion for the 200m fly admitted that he was always looking for more and more in the future. “I’m fine with all these achievements but I want more.
“Then at events like this I recognise that I need to live more in the present, appreciate more what happens to me right here, right now, give more credits to myself for what I’ve already done in swimming.
“I’ll work on this for sure.”
Still, Mr Butterfly has already set his eyes on the 2023 challenges, the FINA World Championships in Fukuoka on top.
“We’ll have several great events this year, including the Athletics Worlds in Budapest – I just try to achieve something great in our ‘little’ Far East meet which may earn me a spot in the Top three once more at the following Athlete of the Year Awards.
“It’s already a great honour to be among the best ones – winning is just the icing on the cake.”