Recently we interviewed Botond Kardos, who is an exceptional young Hungarian gymnast. Botond came home with a silver medal from the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China, in 2014, and he is now another Olympic gold hopeful receiving sponsorship from FirstMed. We spoke with him about his challenges, short- and long-term plans, and, by the way, what is his big dream?
Why gymnastics?I started when I was three years old, when I was like a perpetual motion machine. A family friend was a gymnastics trainer, currently the leader of the Héraklész, a government-supported program to find young athletic talent and provide training in the hope of Olympic participation. He encouraged my parents to let me try it out. Somehow I was so adept at it first time that I shocked the gymnastic room.
Were you in a gymnastic program in primary school?
Yes. I went to a gymnastic class filled with other talented boys and girls. It is from this group that many of the current Olympic hopefuls come from.
But you are a private student now?
This was the first year I started as a private student, because I have so many training camps and competitions that I can’t devote as much time to my school work as I should. This way my life is more manageable and I keep up with my learning.
What are your main goals for this year?
First of all, I would like to pass in the European Championship. Vid Hídvégi, one of the top gymnasts in the nation, has already passed into the ”Test Competition” for the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August. Another gymnast will be able to travel with him for the test competition, which is also held in Rio, and this person will be the one who wins in the first European Championship qualification round. If I can get into this Olympic test competition and place over Vid Hídvégi, I would then get to go to the Olympic Games in Rio. Right now my chances are very low because Vid is a much more experienced gymnast than I am, being just 18 years old. A more realistic goal is to attend the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
How many hours do you train a day?
Currently I train six hours each day, three in the morning and three more in the afternoon. I do intensification phases for the first 45 minutes and then work with the equipment. In the afternoon I continue only with the equipment.
How is it going learning English? How important is it for you to speak well?
I think it is extremely important, especially competing in an international environment. I have a private English teacher now because after my next training camp in Tata I will need to pass my English exam for school. My goal is to speak fluently so I am able to express myself well. I’ve had this desire for a long time but it is really difficult to achieve because of the training camps and focus on gymnastics.
Meanwhile I can see injuries on your palms. What happened?
Too much work on the parallel bars, despite wearing handguards. I guess it’s just one of the risks of the game.
What about role models or idols?
There is a Japanese gymnast, Uchimura Kohei, who is very good at all six gymnastic events [floor exercise, pommel horse, still rings, vault, parallel bars and high bar]. I want to be able to excel like him, being the best in all of the events.
Which event is your favorite?
I think I am at my best on the parallel bars but I think I am still holding onto some fear which may hold be back. Honestly though, what I enjoy the most is the floor exercise.
I read somewhere that you love the Chinese practice of tai-chi. Do you do it regularly?
To tell you the truth I don’t love it, I just know that it is very useful for me. When I have to go to big training but I am often nervous, it helps me calm myself. I listen to my inner sounds during tai-chi exercises and I find that the breathing exercises help a lot in my gymnastic exercises.
What do you think about when you’re doing your gymnastic exercises?
I do everything I can to be able to concentrate on the element I am doing at the very moment rather than the whole exercise. Often mistakes are made this way. Maybe the most important thing I should learn is to be in the present, forgetting about past mistakes. If I made a mistake I shouldn’t focus on it, instead go hard each event, because all of them are important. Tai-chi has taught me how to maintain this focus.
What is your biggest treat in gymnastics?
My biggest treat, and also my best result, was winning the silver medal at the Chinese Youth Olympic Games. I couldn’t believe after the other competitors’ points were tallied that I was still in second place. Another important competition for me was in Linz, Austria, where for the first time I received 85 points. At this event youth and adult competitors were rated in the same category, so I really felt like I did something special.
Can you feel it in the moment if you are in record-breaking form?
Once before a competition during the warm-up, when you have a practice run on the equipment used for the events, I made them all almost perfectly. My trainer said I should have a very successful competition. Of course, that was the day when I fell over almost every one. You just can’t foresee it.
When did you first get the feeling you’re better at gymnastics than your peers?
It came to me very early. It’s easy to know when as a small child you win in your age category every time. After a while you can tell it yourself but also everyone else is saying it as well.
What is your biggest dream in life?
I would like to go to the Olympics and do there my best. I want Olympic gold but I am trying not to lose touch with the ground of reality.
Thanks for speaking with us, Botond. We are very happy to support you on your drive to Olympic gold. We wish you the best with your upcoming competitions and of course school work.