Kristok Milak

In a recent groundbreaking event, the time for the 200 meters butterfly record help by the legendary Michael Phelps was broken by Kristof Milak of Hungary at the World Aquatics Championships in Gwangju, South Korea. The Budapest-born Milak won gold in a time of 1:50.73, lopping 0.78 seconds off Phelps’ 1:51.51 set in Rome in 2009, becoming only the second teenager after the Baltimore Bullet to achieve a similar feat.

While he was deemed to be the favourite, considering he is the reigning European champion, breaking such a major record was not on the books. Another frightening number is the margin of his victory – 3 seconds. 3 seconds in swimming parlance is equivalent to a light year. Well, that’s what runner-up Daiya Sato must be thinking in his hotel room while watching re-runs of this magnificent race.

During the onset of the race South African Chad le Clos set the tone of the event as he was under world-record pace at the halfway mark. However, it wasn’t to be his day as Milak stormed past him and the rest of the competitors in the second half of the race, leaving the entire audience shell-shocked.

Bob Bowman and Michael Phelps
Michael Phelps

Shortly after the triumph, Milak was shocked and ecstatic at the same time. This is what he had to say in his press conference –

“I tried to switch off everything, and I tried not to think of swimming at all before the race. It’s a tremendous honour to set such a great record.”

“Once I did my dolphin kicks, I started to focus solely on myself,” Milak added. “I didn’t think of anything else, just my rhythm that I practice in training.”

“It’s a tremendous honour to set such a great record,” he said. “Until 14 I was a backstroker and later I focused on the butterfly. But earlier I only did 100 meters because I wasn’t strong enough.”

Re-live the moment here:

Here were the final standings:

  1. 1:50.73, Kristof Milak, HUN, WR
  2. 1:53.86, Daiya Seto, JPN
  3. 1:54.15, Chad Le Clos, RSA
  4. 1:54.39, Federico Burdisso, ITA
  5. 1:54.79, Denys Kesyl, UKR
  6. 1:55.69, Zach Harting, USA
  7. 1:55.96, Leonardo De Deus, BRA
  8. 1:57.10, Tamas Kenderesi, HU

The Hungarian has a classic small-town story. In a previous interview, when asked about his preparation leading in to his professional swimming career, he said that he grew up watching Michael Phelps’ videotapes which he could only manage to get poor quality copies of. He would zoom into every pixel, look at the screen from every angle, to get his memory tuned to the perfect technique. It is this zeal that has paid off. The Hungarian would be doubly proud that his idol was watching him live online during the race, and watching his long-standing record get broken much to his delight.

“As frustrated as I am to see that record go down, I couldn’t be happier to see how he did it,” said Phelps. “That kid’s last 100 was incredible. He put together a great 200 fly from start to finish.”

“It happened because there was a kid who wanted to do it, who dreamed of doing it, who figured out what it would take to do it, who worked on his technique until it was beautiful and who put in the really, really hard work that it takes to do it,” Phelps said in a phone interview. “My hat’s off to him.”

Nothing like the baton shifting hands in sport, is there!

The swimming fraternity shouldn’t be mighty surprised about the record being broken because young Milak has shown promise consistently in his career. The Hungarian is also the current world junior record holder in the 200m butterfly category. His other records include:

  • New junior world record and new national record (50.62) at the 100 metre butterfly at the 2017 World Aquatics Championships.
  • Gold medal in the men’s 200 metre butterfly event at the 2018 European Aquatics Championships.
  • 3 gold medals and one silver medal at the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics.

By breaking the Baltimore Bullet’s record, Milak became the first man since Serbia’s Milorad Cavic (a decade ago) to beat Phelps.

Twitterati wasn’t short of praise for the young boy either:

And a little something from his practice partner from the juniors:

Well the shower continued…

Is Kristof Milak the next Michael Phelps? Well, that only time will tell. And to do so, he has a seemingly insurmountable legacy to overturn – the Baltimore Bullet was 15, yes you heard it right, just 15, in 2001 when he set the fastest time for the 200m butterfly. This led to the event being his signature, as he created world record after world record, eight times in total. With a tally of 28 (23 were gold medals and 13 of them were won in individual events, both of which are also records), the 34-year-old is the most successful and most decorated Olympian in history Through his career, Phelps has broken 39 world records across all events and actively holds records in many such events. Not too shabby, eh?

The strength and tenacity shown by this youngster shows his mettle and with age on his side, he can very well be the Michael Phelps Europe has been looking for. Fans remain excited now as the Hungarian will contest the heats of the 100-m butterfly event on Friday, in an attempt to reach Saturday’s final.

Watch what he had to say in an interview 10-months ago: