Road to Paris: Dominik Mark Torok Seeks Place in Burgeoning Hungarian Generation

Photo Courtesy: Taylor Wolfram/Wisconsin Athletics Communications

Road to Paris: Dominik Mark Torok Seeks Place in Burgeoning Hungarian Generation

The road to the Olympics takes swimmers from all over the world through the American college system. From far and wide, countries big and small, a litany of colleges can contribute to the 800 or so Olympic swimmers that’ll converge on Paris this summer. In the six months until that happens, we’re going to shine a light on the journeys of some of those swimmers in a new series of stories on The Road To Paris.

What may look in hindsight like disappointment was an unquestioned highlight for Dominik Mark Torok.

It was June 21, 2022, and Torok was readying for the biggest swim of his career, the semifinal of the men’s 200 individual medley at the World Aquatics Championships. For the native of Budapest to be swimming at his first Worlds in his hometown, it was hard to imagine things getting any better.

Then they did, in a Duna Arena electrified 45 minutes prior to Torok’s swim by countryman Kristof Milak setting a world record in the 200 butterfly. Even if Torok finished 15th the semis, the moment gave the 20-year-old a salient view of what an international future could look like.

Dominik Mark Torok; Photo Courtesy: Taylor Wolfram/Wisconsin Athletics Communications

“Probably that was my best experience in my swimming career because I was able to swim a semifinal,” Torok said recently. “It was right after the 200 fly so it was a full house and Kristof broke the world record. And after, everyone was hyped up and we had a great atmosphere to compete in.”

Torok’s path to recapturing that feeling in Paris has taken him to Madison, Wisconsin, where he felt being a Badger would help unlock the next level in his career.

The early returns are promising. Torok swam at NCAAs in the 400 IM and 200 IM last year, making the B final for 13th place in the former. He was the Big Ten champion in that event. He enters Big Tens this week with the third-fastest times the conference in the 400 IM and 200 fly.

Torok has flourished in the American system in the way he had hoped in jumping the Atlantic.

“My first perspective in coming to the U.S. was swimming, because I have Olympic dreams of course,” Torok said. “I want to swim at a high level. But it’s also really hard to manage classes and swimming.”

Internationally, Torok has long been a notable prospect as Hungarian swimming has replenished itself, with a new male generation that has taken a slightly different path than its forebears. Budapest was Torok’s first and only Worlds. He swam at World Juniors in 2019 and the European Championships in 2022. He regards 2022, which included a coaching change at his club BVSC-Zuglo, as his breakout campaign.

There’s no shortage of history in the Hungarian program going back decades. Milak is the most recent superstar, even as he’s weathered injuries and training interruptions since that Budapest Worlds.

But many of the next wave have tied their fortunes to college swimming, something rarer in the past. Hubert Kos, the 200 backstroke gold medalist at the 2023 World Championships, has excelled at Arizona State. The same is true for Zalan Sarkany, the Sun Devils’ distance freestyle record holder.

Torok is seeing benefits not just from the heavy racing in the U.S. but the demands of short-course yards.

“Short-course yards helps a lot with your speed and your turns and underwaters,” he said. “That’s a big help for me. Since I’ve been here, I think my underwaters and my turns have gotten a lot better. Training-wise, it’s more personal I would say.”

Torok fits the mold of Hungarian greats of the past. The program’s leading lights for so decades – Laszlo Cseh, Katinka Hosszu, Krisztina Egerszegi – were IM and 200-stroke specialists, which Torok emulates.

His best chance at an Olympic A cut is in the 200 IM, where his best time of 1:59.02 is within a second of the consideration cut. The A cut is 1:57.50. He’s a similar distance in the 200 fly, with a 1:57.45 that is within a shout of the 1:55.78 A cut, though he would presumably be fighting for the second spot behind Milak. (Richard Marton won silver at Euros in 2022 and is another contender.) Torok will have to battle Kos, who won gold at Euros in 2022, in the IM.

That will come at Hungarian championships in April, an event Torok has his sights trained on. He’ll manage his way through the college postseason, with Big Tens and NCAAs. But he and Wisconsin coach Yuri Suguiyama are on board to do what it takes to get him to Paris.

“I think we both are on the same page,” Torok said. “His goal and my goal is the same, to qualify for the Olympics and represent Hungary. We won’t take it easy at Big Tens. I will try my best and do the best as possible, but we are looking forward to dreaming bigger I would say.”

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