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Gábor Somlai: Plenty of trainings help you to be in a good shape at this age

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Hungarian fans will have the chance to support plenty of domestic athletes who will be medal contenders at the 2017 FINA World Masters Championships in August. One of them is 72-year-old swimmer Gábor Somlai, who has won a total of 14 medals in major masters competitions so far.

For Gábor Somlai swimming was love at first sight, and although he 'lost' his love for a couple of decades, finally 'they' found the way back to each other. The 1944-born athlete took up swimming relatively late, at age 13, when Hungarian sports schools were founded. He joined one of them, and later became a swimmer of the traditional club Újpesti Dózsa.

"My goal was to compete in Ferencváros, but it did not work, so in 1958 I joined Újpest. I became a member of the Hungarian youth national team in 1960, and a member of the senior national team a year later. I stopped swimming in 1969, and started to work as a civil engineer." – said Gábor Somlai, who was not involved in this sport for almost four decades. He retired in 2006 and in 2007 he returned to his big love.

"A friend of mine asked me whether I would return to swimming, and I decided to do so. It was a fantastic feeling to be in the pool again, I relived my juvenility. In the first few years I was an athlete of Csongrád Senior Swimming Club, and in 2010 I joined Újbuda Senior Swimming Club at the invitation of József Csikány."

His first major international competition was the 2009 European Masters Championships in Cadiz, where he had three fourth-place finishes. He was shining at the 2011 European Masters in Yalta, winning the gold medal in the 50m breaststroke, and the silver medal in the 100m breaststroke event. He was unstoppable: he took part in the 2012 FINA World Masters Championships in Riccione, the 2014 FINA World Masters in Montreal as well as the 2015 FINA World Masters in Kazan, and he did not miss the 2016 European Masters Championships in London, either.

He not only had some notable results in solo events, but in the relay events, also, such as finishing first with the medley relay team and second with the mixed relay team.

"At the 17th FINA World Masters I plan to enter the 50m, 100m and 200m breaststroke, but it will not be easy, since I am almost 73, so there are some rivals in my category, who are three years younger than me. My goal is to finish in the top six, but I hope for a medal in the 50m. We have a good chance for the gold medal with the relay, we swam a new European record a couple of weeks ago in Százhalombatta."

The 72-year-old man looks hale and hearty as a consequence of swimming trainings four times a week, in addition, he rides the bicycle and does gymnastics, too.

"I am always on the move, and plenty of trainings help you to be in a good shape at this age. I heard that the competitors of our category will compete in the Alfréd Hajós Swimming Stadium at the FINA World Masters Championships, and it will be a special experience for me, since I competed there some 50 years ago when I was an active swimmer."

GÁBOR SOMLAI

Born: Komárom, 12 September, 1944

Memorable achievements:

14 medals in major international masters competitions

More than 50-time Hungarian senior champion

Multiple Hungarian medallist as an active swimmer