By Phillip Whitten
Tempe, AZ – Arizona State University’s chances to move into the top ranks of men’s intercollegiate swimming received a big boost yesterday when Hungarian Attila Czene made his NCAA debut in a dual meet against Stanford.
Czene, 26, was the gold medalist in the 200m individual medley at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, “stealing” the race from lane one. He clocked 1:59.91 for his Olympic title, faster than the American record.
In his inaugural meet against the second ranked Cardinal, Czene won the 200 yard individual medley in 1:48.10, the fourth fastest time in the nation this season; contributed a 48.76 butterfly leg to the Sun Devils’ winning 400 yard medley relay (3:17.19); and finished second in the 200 yard fly.
Stanford, the 18-time defending Pac-10 champion, edged the Sun Devils 126-116 in a surprisingly close meet.
Czene fell in love with the Phoenix area back in 1996 when he, along with most of the Hungarian men’s Olympic team, trained at the Phoenix Swim Club for several months. After a mandatory stint in the Hungarian army, he returned to Phoenix early last year for another training session. In the fall, he moved to Tempe, trained with the Sun Devil Aquatic Club, passed his English proficiency exam and enrolled for second semester. His debut was delayed when his eligibility to swim was challenged. The NCAA ruled on Thursday that he was eligible for at least one year. Czene is expected to petition the NCAA for another year’s eligibility.
An ebullient ASU head coach Mike Chasson commented: “He’s going to score points at NCAAs, and he raises the level of confidence (of his teammates) to know that someone that good is on your team.”
Chasson predicted that Czene will continue to improve and “will take our 800 free relay to another level.”