Bálint Kopasz: There could even be three Olympics for me
Hungary won its 180th Olympic gold medal in the K1 1000m by Bálint Kopasz. After the victory ceremony, we talked to the 24-year-old world-class athlete.
|Bálint Kopasz had difficulty sleeping before his success (Photo: István Mirkó)|
– After your victory, head coach Csaba Hüttner said that if anyone deserved the Olympic gold, it is Bálint Kopasz.
– He's probably right. I've been preparing for this since I was nine years old. For fifteen years, I've worked really hard, I've given up everything: I haven't been to parties, I haven't made friends with anyone, I've given up on my personal life – I feel sorry about that, of course, because I've wanted a girlfriend since I was 15... But that was the price I had to pay to get this far, to say that I'm an Olympic champion. It was a pleasure to see the joy on my mother's face after I reached the finish line, as she has been preparing me for competitions since I was a child, and she gave me everything – she did a lot to get me here with a gold medal around my neck.
– How many times have you rowed the course in your mind in the last few months?
– A lot. It's been almost a year since I started thinking about it every day, and I've been imagining what the lane is going to look like. In the last few days, this has intensified, I knew I had to go very fast with a strong pace of travel, and in the end, the usual Bálint-Kopasz-starting had to come.
Bálint Kopasz gave interviews after interviews following his Olympic victory, while also looking at the sun and his watch. He did not want to get heatstroke in any way, and he had to pay attention to the time as well as he is competing on Wednesday with Bence Nádas. The two join forces in the K2 1000m.
“After such a bad night and my Olympic victory, I think I will sleep well before the doubles," Kopasz said. “I hope that Bence Nádas and I will perform well in our preliminary heat, despite having several world champions in it. From now on, I'm concentrating on doubles only. I'm not going to give in to temptation, and I'm not even going to take out my phone. When the Olympics is over, I'll give in to temptation, but not until then."
– Did you row the night before the race, or could you sleep?
– I haven't had a night this bad since we arrived in Japan. Even though I went to bed at 10pm, I was deep in thought, my heart was racing faster than usual. Of course, this isn't so surprising because I was preparing for an Olympic final after all. Even though I drank herbal tea and took a dietary supplement that was supposed to help me sleep, I couldn't sleep.
– Weren't you scared that sleep deprivation could affect your performance?
– I was a little nervous that all of this wouldn't hold back my performance, but luckily, it didn't affect me. My day started depressed, but it ended fantastically, which is an amazing feeling!
– What did you think when you noticed the conditions on the course that morning?
– I was delighted that there was a huge downwind and crosswind, which is why the water was very choppy. I had wished for such conditions for the final in advance, because these weather conditions, which can almost be called extreme, favor me. I've always liked when the course is like this, and I think it's allowed the fans to see a spectacular race because, thanks to my relatively light weight, I was able to complete the 1000 meters at high speed.
– Do you remember what your mother told you before she sent you off?
– I have a bad short-term memory. I'm sure she told me something apt, but I forgot what it was. I was already focusing on the competition, and I was mentally somewhere else. Oh, I got it! My mom said, "Don't let anyone else succeed."
– That “You're an Olympic champion, my dear!”– Can you believe it? Your dream came true.
– I'm 24 years old, you could say I'm an experienced, grown man. It registered that I won. I'm an Olympic, World and European champion in K1 1000m. I don't really want to and cannot achieve more than that, but as long as I feel I have enough energy, I want to continue competing, collect more medals, and achieve even more success. Since I'm young, I think there could be even three more Olympics in me. So, if my health allows me, I will go forward.
– Did the rivalry with Ádám Varga help with your preparations?
– Absolutely. I'm very happy that we were both able to stand on the podium – only a few countries' athletes can say that at an Olympics. Standing on the podium, pictures flashed from my past. I was mostly in Algyő where everything started, where I did the first meters with a kayak. At first, I was just playing in the sand on the Tisza bank. When I was shoveling the sand with the oar, I was also told that maybe I shouldn't do that... I've been to the beach a lot, and while everyone else was laying on the sand beach, and I got tired of playing in the sand, I started looking for something more serious to occupy myself. I untied a children's kayak on the beach, grabbed an oar, and set off. No one taught me how to kayak until then, I just saw how the older ones were rowing, so I tried it as well. My mom came after me, looking for where I was. I was on the water. That's how it all started. Now I have the Olympic gold medal around my neck. My dream has been fulfilled.
(Translated by Vanda Orosz)