Balázs Csőke is a young Hungarian Pro who is currently getting ready for the Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas. He is already in Texas with a kind host family and had a few words with slowtwitch about his goals and plans in general.
Slowtwitch: When did you arrive in Texas?
Balázs: I have been in the USA for 2 weeks and arrived in Texas just 4 days ago.
ST: Are you having time to enjoy yourself or are you too busy getting ready for the Ironman event coming up?
Balázs: Sure, I have some time to relax and sightsee a bit, but the main focus is for the race. I am having a great homestay here in the Woodlands, the Trimble family is doing their absolute best to make me feel at home and prepare me optimally for the race! Their son Austen is the same age as I, so it gives me someone to talk to and spend time with!
ST: How did you get connected with that host family in Woodlands?
Balázs: I got connected with the Trimble family, through Kim Hager, she is the homestay coordinator for the race.
ST: Is it all about the points in Texas, or any other reason for you to race there?
Balázs: Honestly it is all about the points! I chose the race because it fits my racing style - flat and windy. I am really looking forward to some additional points here.
ST: So is it Kona or bust for you?
Balázs: Yes, Kona is definitely my main goal this year, as it would be a first for me! The introduction of the points system has changed the perspective on Hawaii quite a bit. Many athletes who had a slot in the bag are going to realise (too late) this summer that they have no chance anymore. It is all about consistency over the long term instead of maybe one lucky punch during the season. The negatives are that the points system forces pro triathletes to travel more, spend more, and do more ironman distance races, which is not exactly helping the body much. I believe the average Ironman age (of the winner in Hawaii at least) is going to drop dramatically if nothing is done to limit the amount of Ironman races raced in one season.
ST: You currently have 2660 points and are positioned in 31st spot - how many more points do you need, or what do you think is the magic number every male Pro needs to hit to qualify?
Balázs: It is hard to say that, but my manager and I have been studying the points system intensively since it was introduced last July. Talking to other athletes as well, I think the magic number will be around 3500 points for the males. I hope this will be my last Ironman before Hawaii this season, then I have time to build up a decent preparation phase.
ST: Looking back at your races this season, how do you feel about your results?
Balázs: I turned 100% professional basically at the beginning of this year,so I was pretty happy with my 17th place in Clearwater in November 2010. I had two solid 70.3 races early in the year in Chile and South Africa, where I finished 5th in both, which proved my decision to concentrate fully on my triathlon career was the right one. A less satisfying result was at Ironman South Africa where I finished 10th, but was on course for around fifth until a quad injury hampered the last 10km of my run. The extra points would have certainly helped.
ST: You raced short events before, is longer stuff just better for you?
Balázs: Definitely! I come from a swimming background in Hungary (known for their small but extremely successful swim elite),and was able to develop up a very decent bike fitness in the last 2 years (but not in the Swiss Alps - rather in the Swiss "flatlands"). I always planned to race long distance, but wanted to get into the sport with shorter distances. I started triathlon at age 19, and did my first full distance race in 2007.
ST: Why Switzerland as your place for residence?
Balázs: After I finished my university studies in Hungary, I had to find a way to make a living. It was either quitting triathlon and trying to find a job in Hungary, or get lucky and go outside the country. I was very lucky to meet Marco Pilloud ,CEO of Total Immersion Europe GmbH, during the swim sessions before IM Switzerland in 2007, and he offered me a job in swim coaching/triathlon coaching in Switzerland in the beginning of 2008. This allowed me to work 80% and train in order to try and reach my dream of once participating in Hawaai among the pros. After 2 years of this arrangement, I was able to give up the working part in December 2010 and focus fully on my triathlon career. Through my work with Marco and his swim company I was able to make a large network of extremely important and sympathetic connections in Switzerland which enabled me to turn fully professional.
ST: How are things going for you in terms of sponsorship?
Balázs: This is still a lacking part in the development of the sport, especially when it comes to the points system which forces more costs on the professional athletes due to the extra travel. But thanks to my connections through Marco I was able to get on the Tempo-Sport pro-triathlon team which provides me basically with all my cycling and running gear. Tempo Sport is the leading triathlon shop in the greater Zurich area. Sailfish and Jan Sibbersen take care of all I need to be fast in the water,and I also use their racing suits. For my recovery and traveling I use Compressport products.
Where I am still lacking is on the financial side. Marco Pilloud has basically taken on the full risk by continuing my salary but with a largely reduced workload (practically nil), which allows me to concentrate fully on triathlon. Thanks to Total Immersion Europe GmbH for this arrangement, and Raiffeisen Bank, Gherzi, Vanilla AG, and a few private sponsors I am scraping my way through this year financially. But my next goal is to be part of a professional team like Commerzbank or Abu Dhabi, which I hope through my connections in Switzerland to be able to build up and be a leading member thereof from 2012 onwards.
ST: Do you really think being on a professional team is financially of an advantage?
Balázs: Definitely, yes, especially at the beginning of your career when it is quite hard to find a way to make a living besides travel expenses.
ST: Talking about living, do you have any special food likes and dislikes?
Balázs: I like all kinds of Italian food, and my Mother's Hungarian food the most, which unfortunately is not so easy to get since I live in Switzerland. I am not typical Hungarian since I dislike spicy dishes!
ST: Is there anything else we should know about you?
Balázs: I just would like to say a big thank you to all the people around me who helped me in the last 10 years, to become a world traveler and international professional triathlete from a small southeastern Hungarian town (Szeged)!
The website of Balázs is csokebalazs.com