Gabor Zombori’s Hungarian Rhapsody: World Junior Champion In 3:46 In Year He Cracked 4mins For First Time

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Gabor Zombori in a dream world - Photo Courtesy: Aniko Kovacs and the Hungarian Swimming Federation

World Junior Championships (Gabor Zombori World Junior Champion)

Budapest, Day 1 finals

Gabor Zombori does not turn 17 until October. He started the year with an ambition of cracking 4 minutes on one of his ‘lesser’ events, the 400m freestyle; rose to 20th best Hungarian ever at trials in 3:53 and up to 12th on the way to international waters and two stunning 3:46 championship records and the World Junior title at home in Budapest today.

On 3:46.97 in heats of the 400m freestyle, he cracked 2016 Olympic champion Mack Horton‘s championship record, then on 3:46.06 this evening he got the better of Horton’s fellow Australian Thomas Neill, who took silver in 3:46.27. Russia’s Aleksandr Egorov took bronze in 3:47.36, the race described in our wrap of finals.

The new champion is now the fastest Hungarian in textile ever and second all-time, all suits behind the 3:45.68 national record of Gergo Kis from the Rome 2009 shiny suits circus.

Only 16, Zombori has mileage in him. Coached by Tamás Horváth at the Budafóka XXI swim club Zombori was just 12 when he clocked 9:48.55 over 800m and 18:23.32 over 1500m freestyle. By 15, with European junior selections under his belt, he was already showing rapid progress and versatility across a whole range of events. Until this year, Zombori had not broken 4mins over 400m freestyle but at 16 and a half, he cracked his best down to 3:58 in heats and then 3:53.30 in the final at nationals to qualify for World juniors and a 3:51 trial gave further hope of a place in the final in Budapest.

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Gabor Zombori Photo Courtesy: Hungarian Swimming Federation

He was destined for bigger things. As a source close to the Hungarian team told Swimming World: “The kid totally surprised even himself. He didn’t feel his speed; he just swam. Thought it was going to be a 3:51 something. He only meant this event to be a warmup. No-one expected he would do this and that’s why he was entered in the relay (4x100m free) in the morning.”

Once named, there was no way of withdrawing Zombori from the 4x100m heats to save him for the final of the 400m. As it turned out, he didn’t need saving. After crunching his best 400m down below 3:47 in heats and then splitting 49sec in the relay to deliver a place for Hungary in that final, he was buoyed for this evening.

Asked how he felt after heats, he said: “I don’t feel (lactic) acid when I swim freestyle.”

So it would seem – and after the final he said:

“I just didn’t expect anything like this today – I’m in a dream world.”

Horton, meantime, retained the world junior record, an official standard that has only existed since 2014. The historic world junior best is the 3:40.59 in which Ian Thorpe claimed Olympic gold in Sydney in his 18th year on September 16, 2000. Thorpe, the youngest world senior champion when he claimed the global crown over 400m free in 1998 at just 15 years of age, swam faster than Zombori’s winning time seven times as a junior 1998-2000.

There’s exceptional beyond outstanding, which is what Budapest witnessed today. Expect to hear more from Zombori. His career bests set this year include a 50.69 in the 100m freestyle (that won’t survive this meet, if a 49sec in heats as anchor for Hungary is anything to go by); 1:48.76 over 200m; 25.61, 54.98 and 1:59.87 over 50, 100 and 200m backstroke; 1:03.67 over 100m breaststroke (at 14 he clocked 2:20.22 over 200m breaststroke);55.62 over 100m butterfly; and 2:02.38 over 200m medley (at 14 he had a best of 4:27.07 over 400IM).

Meanwhile, tor those who can follow Hungarian, Zombori after battle:

2 comments

  1. Patsy Patterson Martin

    We swim without boarders. we people who swim love all those who swim hard.