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Swimming: 97 year-old Béla bácsi finished his last heat at the masters tournament for now, but he won’t stop swimming at all

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Hungary’s favourite, Béla Bánki Horváth finished his last heat. On the closing day of the 17th FINA World Masters Championships he entered 50m backstroke and as always he left the pool with a smile on his face.

„I feel really good before and after swimming. Before the heat I’m a bit excited, but fortunately I am never nervous. Luckily I never feel anxious before exams and races. Certainly, I feel excited, but excitement can boost my performance. After racing I always feel content and delighted, partly because of my efficiency and thanks to water’s calming effect on me. I get out of the pool feeling easy and happy every time” –Béla Bánki Horváth told after his last swim.

His wife has asked him several times what motivated him to continue and he told her he never wanted to stay away from his best friend, water. On 20 August, 1938 he entered 100m backstroke in this pool (nicknamed as the ’Hajós 50m pool’) and won that race, so he attaches nice memories to the venue.

„The pool has been renovated and a lot of things have changed since then, but the length is the same” – said Béla bácsi funnily.

He was a member of the national swimming team for five years, he has lived in Szeged for 60 years now, and he comes from Orosháza. He was 9 when his father told him to learn to swim. At 15 he attended his first race, his first achievements came when he was 17. At the age of 15-16 he entered breaststroke heats, he won some medals, but none of them were gold. Then he changed to backstroke and realized he was way better at it. That’s why backstroke is closer to his heart.

Béla bácsi planned to enter 50m breaststroke too, and most definitely it would have been interesting because there was another competitor in the 95-99 category, Polish Kazimierz Mrowczynski. In the end the elderly Hungarian swimmer decided not to enter.

Nevertheless, we are really proud of the 97-year-old swimmer. He participated in four races, 50, 100, 200m backstroke and 100m breaststroke, clinching a total of 4 gold medals.

In a previous interview he told us he would continue to swim as long as he is alive, so we will have the opportunity to meet him at future swimming events, as well.