Although there will be no Cadet World Championships in the calendar year of 2020, a pair of European nations are activating the U17 age group as means to resume competition.
This past weekend, Hungary held their version of a Cadet nationals in the Budapest suburb of Gyál. 208 athletes across all three international styles participated. Preventative guidelines were put in place for both competitors and fans in the form of temperature checks, frequent disinfection of mats and equipment, and the wearing of masks.
Bulgaria is getting into the act, too, which should come as no surprise given that the former Eastern Bloc country was the first to reignite activities for Seniors all the way back in May. Beginning this coming Thursday at the Vasil Levski Sports Hall in Sliven, Bulgaria’s Cadet Greco championships will proceed, as Hungary’s did, some six months behind schedule. The one difference between the two countries is that at this time, Bulgaria has made no mention of restrictions or guidelines pertaining to athletes and/or spectators, though such details may not become available until the tournament actually gets underway.
Juniors in CZE
A ten-day camp for Junior Greco athletes wrapped up in Chomutov last week, their first major training opportunity since the spring. A mix of top Juniors from around the nation worked in with members of the Czech Wrestling Chomutov Club where the focus was on “increasing physical condition with an emphasis on strength training.” Chomutov is not unfamiliar territory for the US program. In ’17, Combat founder Lucas Steldt brought a delegation of Cadets to the city for a tournament — including Cohlton Schultz (130 kg, Sunkist); in March of ’19, Steldt ushered another group to Chomutov for an age-group event that saw Cole Stephenson (60 kg) and Tyler Hannah (97 kg) both place third.
World Champ Gets Hitched
’09 World Champion/multi-time medalist Balazs Kiss (97 kg, HUN) is about to wrap up his honeymoon after wedding longtime girlfriend Timea Balika last weekend in the vineyard-rich town of Eytek (20 miles outside of Budapest). Due to the pandemic, there was some initial consternation throughout the spring regarding their eventual nuptials and if they would be able to hold a wedding. Fortunately for the couple, Hungary has largely managed to rebound from COVID-19 and plans went ahead undisturbed on August 28.
“In March, when the coronavirus epidemic broke out here in Hungary, we had some sleepless nights, unsure if we could hold the wedding,” Kiss told the Hungarian federation’s official outlet (text converted to English via machine translation). “We calmed down in May, June, and July, and then we could worry again about whether the second wave would reach us. We were lucky, everything went smoothly and even the weather was impeccable.”
37-year-old Kiss is still considered a viable competitor, though his goal of appearing in a second-straight Olympiad is currently in question. At 97 kilograms, Hungary entered last season with ’18 U23 silver Zsolt Toeroek gaining steam and Alex Szoeke following closely behind. In fact, it was Szoeke who was tabbed as the representative for the ’20 European Championships, where he finished a disappointing ninth after being blitzed by Aleksandr Golovin (RUS). As if Toeroek and Szoeke weren’t enough, ’17 U23 World Champion Erik Szilvassy has decided to move up from 87 kilos to 97 since the lower Olympic weight firmly belongs to Viktor Lorincz (world #1).
There is no way around it: 97 kilos is log-jammed in Hungary and Kiss acknowledges the situation. If the season never shut down he likely would have called it a career. But despite previously entertaining thoughts about retirement, he is plowing ahead for one more year in hopes of achieving his Olympic dream.
“We decided that yes, I will keep going at the age of 37 because I want to be there in the Japanese capital and I want to perform well,” Kiss said. “I do not want to think in ten to 20 or 30 years What would have happened if…? Of course, my situation is not simple; three excellent athletes want to achieve the same. They represent an outstanding force, making it quite interesting which of us can fight for the quota. What is certain, however, is that only the Olympics are floating before my eyes. I want to be there at the Games.”
One obstacle still remains. Kiss finished 16th at the ’19 World Championships, which means that Hungary still has not qualified 97 kilograms for Tokyo. Their next opportunity will arrive at the European Olympic Games Qualifier next spring, with one more shot remaining at the Last Chance World event set for April in Bulgaria.
Norwegian National Team head coach Fritz Aanes has received a four-year contract extension, keeping him locked in for at least another quadrennium. Following a competitive career that included an appearance in the ’04 Athens Games, Aanes became involved with the national federation on the age-group level before eventually moving up to Senior. Under his charge, Stig-Andre Berge (60 kg) earned bronze at both the ’14 Worlds and ’16 Olympics, while athletes such as Felix Baldauf (97 kg, world #15) and Martin Thoresen (67 kg, world #9) have asserted themselves as top competitors more recently. In ’17, Baldauf won the Euros, and this past February, Thoresen shocked the field to do the same.
“I am happy to have extended my agreement with the association,” Aanes said in a statement last week. “We are entering an exciting period with a postponed Olympics, the World Championships at home, and after that an Olympics that will come after only three years.” In kind, the Norwegian Wrestling Federation’s Sports Manager Jacob Haug added, “It’s great that we have Fritz in place. Fritz has been a key player in building up the centralization we have around the national team, and it is good that we have ensured that continuity further towards Paris 2024.”
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