It was all the way back in early-May when Austria began to permit their athletes to engage in outdoor practices. In fact, the Eastern Alpine nation of around nine million was one of the first to take that step, joining Denmark, Sweden, Bulgaria, and a few others. But despite that head start, Austria has lagged behind many other European programs when it comes to training with actual contact. Even the United States — though not officially sanctioned by the national governing body and still dealing with several dozen COVID “hot spots” — beat Austria to the proverbial punch.
However, Austria has now caught up — if not more so, since their camp that kicked off late last week enjoyed the full endorsement of the Austrian federation. Held at the VIVA Sports Center in Steinbrunn-neue Siedlung, 18 athletes have been able to participate. Meanwhile, approximately 850 miles away, a national camp had been approved for Belarus set for mid-August.
With Austria and Belarus fully engaged in officially-sanctioned contact practices (or close to it), much of Europe from a wrestling context has ebbed back to a sense of normalcy, though most nations in the east and some in the west are still waiting to return indoors. Austria is still waiting to secure their first Olympic license for Tokyo while Nikolai Stadub (world #10) qualified 87 kilograms for Belarus by virtue of finishing 5th at the World Championships last September.
Shakeup in Hungary at 97
Few paid attention during the latter stages of the winter when out of Hungary word began materializing that 2017 U23 World Champion Erik Szilvassy was jumping up from 87 to 97 kilograms. It is understandable given that all of the continental Olympic qualifiers with the exception of Pan-American were put on the shelf until next year. But it is still fairly big news. Not only is Szilvassy considered a World-caliber threat and reliable Senior for the Hungarian program, he had also decided to enter one of his nation’s strongest weight categories.
97 in Hungary is well-stocked and covers the age spectrum quite nicely: ’09 World champ Balazs Kiss is/was still on the roster at 37 years of age; ’18 U23 silver Zsolt Toeroek has become a mainstay; and ’16 Cadet World gold (and the athlete Szilvassy chopped down in a wrestle-off in March) Alex Szoeke is thought to represent the future. But with Viktor Lorincz (world #1) placing second in Nur-Sultan and thereby qualifying 87 for Tokyo, Szilvassy had to reassess. Barring injury, Lorincz is guaranteed to compete in the Olympics. Which is why 25-year-old Szilvassy chose to bump up. It’s his best — and only — chance.
“I started from 91 kilograms, now I’m around 97,” Szilvassy told the Hungarian federation last week (converted to English from Hungarian via machine translation). “I trained a lot more, and I keep trying to work with increasing my weight.”
And it is for that reason why Szilvassy wasn’t too disappointed when he learned the Olympics were postponed. “I can get stronger in a year, so the extra year was not bad news,” he said. “In fact, I was positive about the situation. If it had been the Olympics this year, I would have wanted to be there in Japan, so I see an even bigger chance in front of me.”
Although Szilvassy defeated Szoeke and was set to enter the European Olympic Qualifier, he is not assured that will be the case come 2021. But if the World Championships set for December in Belgrade, Serbia go off without a hitch, 97 is all his. After that, the process from this past March may repeat itself with another round of wrestle-offs. That doesn’t seem to bother the athlete too much. “Even though my shoulder has been hurting for nine months now, it will be fine soon, so I can concentrate with all my might on participating in the Olympics,” said Szilvassy. “And once I’m there, I’d like to stand on the podium.”