The two-time world and European champion athlete is currently working as the sports director of the Hungarian Wrestling Federation, not to mention his role as this project’s ambassador. The European Day of Care is a big collaborative partnership co-funded by the Erasmus+ Sport Programme of the European Union, an extension of an initiative launched in 2015. Our goal, together with other European multisport clubs, is to highlight the difficulties of transitioning from leading sports to civilian life and to share inspirational stories of those who have succeeded.
- How did you become a wrestler?
- I've been doing sports since I was a kid, but wrestling was the first sport I tried more seriously. I didn't play any other sport on this level later, wrestling was the only one in my life.
- Why did wrestling become your sport?
- Many people have already asked me this question. The choice was simple: my brother wrestled, and I followed my older brother, so I got to the gym. He stopped after a short time, but I was stuck on the wrestling mat.
- Did you soon find out that you could have a successful sports career?
- It was relatively late to discover that I could be talented, though it may have been my movement that I had a chance to get good results. Initially, I started with home competitions, but often I wasn't the best at competing against each other. When I was older I went to national competitions, I remember I had to wait for years for my first win. This was typical of my entire career. I had to work for every success, the results didn't come by themselves. For me 1997 was probably the turning point, when, at the age of 14, I won my first Hungarian youth championship. In that year I became a national team member, and as a final year adolescent I was also eligible for the Cadet World Cup. It was a great success, after all, I think my athletic career really started at that time.
- What milestones do you remember from your career?
- I think there are two turning points in the life of an athlete: first, when you finish primary school and you have to decide on what level do you want to pursue in sports, and the second is after high school when you have to choose between college, university, sports or work. After graduation, I tried myself in the hospitality business, continued wrestling besides, and later went to college. I couldn't graduate in the college then, and I couldn't combine daily higher education with elite sports. In the last years of my career, however, I graduated at the University of Physical Education as a sport manager.
- What did your family advise when you had to make difficult decisions?
- My parents always advised me to study. At first, when I was not so successful, I was repeatedly asked to learn because I was not going to be a wrestler. Later, at the age of 18, I began to shape my life in my own way, but I always tried to keep the balance. I'm lucky because I found my calculations.
- Finally, you ended a long and successful career in 2019 when you retired. When did you start to think about what's going to be after top sports?
- It was a warning sign when I was injured during my first match at the London Olympics (In 2012 - Ed.). At that time, it was conceivable that my career would end because a more serious injury would not have been possible. As a result, I became more focused, and began to get more and more interested in what would come after wrestling. In the last years of my career I started to do more things, started a business, and my sons were born. It was a real challenge to be able to put the right energy into sports and many other areas of my life, while making good decisions. This is difficult for many athletes, so it is important that they can count on help when they need it.
- Are you satisfied with your career?
- I'm proud of my career. I participated in three Olympics, I won two World Championships and two European Championships, so it would be difficult to rank which success stands closer to me. All right, well, the title of World Championship won in Budapest overwrites everything. However, I was left with a certain sense of deficiency in my domestic success: while I was able to celebrate with the family after the semi-finals, it was not possible after the finals due to the many obligations. It was strange that with the doping control until the dawn and the many interviews, I couldn't be with the people who cheered for me.
„I have never wanted to mix my sports background and the civilian life!”
István Kovács can be a great example for active athletes.
Nowadays he is working at the green-white club of Budapest as sports director.
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