Dejan Illes

  Part 2


by Adastra & Helga Dobor
Photos © Adastra, Tino Eberl & Dejan Illes

People say that skating is a more graceful and artistic sport than others, there are beautiful costumes, and so this makes the sport more feminime.

Yes, it is a tremendous theatre. We try to perform something on the ice. Nowadays the judges score the performance separately. The judges expect us to act a part, which they can understand, in our dance and performance on the ice. All skaters have to play a role. It's a problem, because the judges mark us down if we have a good technique, but we don't play anything on the ice. There are the skaters who don't have technical knowledge but they play-act very well. The judges say: "It was wonderful". The costumes are really beautiful - without them, lots of the skaters would lost. It is not good to see only costumes and form an opinion about them! Without costumes, it would transpire who is the professional, who can skate. Clothes do not make the man. Some skaters wear tawdry costumes and perform well in these. It isn’t important. The clothes aren’t important if a skater can skate. He can surely show his talent without spangly clothes.

Is there skating rivalry in Hungary?

There is only a small skating community in our country. We start skating and grow up together on the ice. We train with the same coach or on the same ice so we are always together. Everybody knows everybody. And everybody knows everything about each other.
In a community you cannot like everybody, and you cannot be loved by everybody. The rivalry is between the coaches who make the competitors into rivals. Like the soldiers in a war. The president sends the soldiers to battle and that's all - they solved the situation. The coaches prepare us quickly and send us to compete against our home rivals, in order to see who is better coach. We just smile then.

Perhaps there is rivalry between the girls, too. There is more togetherness among the guys, so we laugh about these rivalries. There is rivalry among the coaches because of the money. I don't want to paper over the cracks, but nowadays all sports are about money. In Hungary there is little money for sponsoring skating and there are more clubs now so they have to share this money among a lot of sport clubs (for training camps, skates, financial aids etc.) The coaches try to edge out the others because they want to get that money. However they do not spend this money. They use it to fund their skaters to go to international training camps and to have the best opportunities.
We can't do anything, but skate. Perhaps it could be easier only if there was more money available for skating - enough for every skater.

Why do you think figure skating is not a popular sport in Hungary?

Here in Hungary this sport was very popular. Suddenly that stopped. Maybe Hungary should organize more competitions to fight against unpopularity. Though we organized the Europeans last year, they didn’t advertise it. .
Here’s a story to illustrate all this. It happened yesterday. I was on my way to training at the Ice Rink at Stadiums. I often take a shortcut across the Statue Park (from the underground to the Ice Rink). The porter at the gate asked me where did I want to go? I answered that I was going to my rink to train. Then he told me there wasn't any Ice Rink in the Stadium!!!
It's a problem here in Hungary. People don't even know that there is Ice Rink and there are skaters either, moreover that they could skate!
I'm not an expert in the subject and I don't want to intervene into the work of the Federation but their work should be to manage this sport. They should show Hungarian people that figure skating exists and that we have good skaters again, as in the past, when Regoczy & Sallai or Engi &Tóth skated. There are skaters who stand their ground and we should follow their work with attention! Then they could achieve better results and Hungarian figure skating could revive! Unfortunately it doesn't depend on the skaters, it depends on those people who have power and money to influence skating.

What is your family like? Do they do any sports? Or do they assist in your skating?

I started skating with a bit difficulty, because my mother and her relatives were dancers only. She is Croatian and Croatian people like to dance very much. My mum danced folk-dance and ballroom too. My father was more masculine and sporty. He chose football. He wasn't too pleased that I chose skating, because he had lived through some hard times when my sister skated. He didn't want it, and that's why I started skating in secret.
He got to know only when I came home with my first gold medal. He asked where it came from. I told him I won it in ice dance. Then we quarrelled about skating but he resigned himself to it. He told me if I could win another gold medal, I could continue skating.
We have good and bad times. Either we are at the top and earn lots of money or we are down in the rankings and have little money. This sport needed huge expenses. I think if we had kept this money for ourselves we could have bought the whole Island Krk in Croatia.
It is a very expensive sport. It was very difficult for my parents. I thank them. All the children want their parents to be proud of them! My parents are proud of me. I'm very glad to have such good parents. They were always with me, stood by me. For example, there was the tragedy before the Olympic Games. I wanted to quit and perhaps perform in a show to earn money or go back to school. They told me I had to continue. They gave me hope, and I can only thank them for being where I am now. They are still so positive about my skating!
The truth is, if you reach a certain point then you cannot go back! We crossed that line, when we put everything in to skating - our energy, our money and our souls. You simply can't quit! You have to go on. If you quit then you waste about 10 years of your life.

Do you study now?

No, I don't. After high-school graduation I didn't go to a college or university because of skating. However when my partner quit I was able to go to university, but it didn't happen. I got an offer from Hungary and so I switched country. Now I feel as though I can achieve something. I will fight tooth and nail and then I can be in the first 15 at senior level.

You still have time in your life for study?

Sure. I'm only 21 years old. I'm going to try to compete a lot. After that I'll go to university...but now the sport is the most important thing for me.

Do you use the internet?

Yes, I do.

Most Hungarian skaters don't use the Internet in spite of the fact that they are young.

To tell the truth they haven't time for this. It may sound stupid, but we all grew up as top athletes, so that pastime doesn’t really exist in this life. We stay away from public life too. When we go home after practices, we simply sit down and start studying, go to sleep or spend an hour with our friends. So we haven't got too much time.

If you surf, do you usually go to skating related websites?

Not often. Only if there is a competition and I want to get any information immediately.
Then it is useful!

If you are so busy, do you have time for other sporting activities, especially with your friends?

Oh, of course! I do athletics, ballroom dance, jazz ballet, classical ballet and stretching, strengthening for the boys. It is compulsory in skating. Additional training is needed in figure skating and ice dancing.
Besides skating, I do martial arts as a hobby; the Shaolin kung fu. A Chinese master teaches us. His name is Tuan Chia Chao sifu and is from the Shaolin Temple, China. I have been learning martial arts since I started jiu-jicu at the age of 4.
It was funny, because when I started skating, I was already fighting in the ring. Therefore my movements and muscles were defined. Both sports were interwoven because I continued kung fu as a life style.
Beside this I do a lot of other sports - sometimes some extreme sports too.

Bungee-jumping, too?

Oh, yes. Also rafting, rock-climbing, riding etc. Such crazy things. You have to live the life! You are on the ice whole day. Somewhere you have to have a break.

What is your favourite sport?

I haven't got any favourite sports. My father was a keen footballer. He still plays with the old boys. I grew up with this sport, so I like it and enjoy watching it on TV, but there isn't any team I support. I could never follow tennis or cycling.

You lived also Croatia and Hungary. Which country do you prefer?

I like both of them. I competed in both countries. I have the best results in Croatian's colours but I like Hungary very much aswell. I was born here but I consider both countries as my home. My mother is Croatian and my father is Hungarian and I lived a lot in both places. I can’t favour either one. Though the two cultures are very different, I like both very much.

Croatia, because there the people have siesta at noon and they just sit down and have a cup of coffee, but they make a living out of this and they have enough good wages. There is also the sea in Croatia!
But there are so many things which are better in Hungary. Therefore I can't say that it is better to be here or there.

And now some short questions as relaxation in the end of our interview:

What is the biggest treasure in your life?

Uh, the biggest treasure? It is a difficult question because I can’t say any specific person in case someone is offended.
The family is said to be the most important, and they really are. They brought you up and made you get so far. I don't know. Beside my family my biggest treasure is my skating too. If I lost it and my faith in myself that I could achieve something in skating, then everything would collapse. It would be the end.

How could you live without your skating?

I couldn't live without it. It is the same with all the athletes. I remember my first session on the ice. I often fell down and always stood up. Again and again, defeats and defeats. I was disappointed and I wanted to give up. Last year I had a period when I wanted to give it up again. The next day I was back training again.
I remember when I did my first Axel - it was unforgettable- I was 11 years old then. It was a great pleasure for me. It was funny, because everybody did double and triple jumps at the same age, but I was very glad about a simple Axel. There wasn't an audience with applause nor judges nor podium to stand up on, but it was unbelievable pleasure that I got the better of myself with skates on my feet, that I did something and I could tell myself, "Yes, it was very good. " Maybe for this reason all athletes love their sport.

Without sport?

I couldn't live without it! I'm a quite active man. Sport gets me to exercise. Once when the Ice Rink was closed, we were glad that we didn’t have to train, but in the evenings I wanted to be active again.

Without music?

That's another thing I wouldn't be able to live without. It is necessary for an ice dancer. I listen all styles of music, from rock to Latin and R 'n B too. I like dancing so that's why I like danceable music. If I’m not in the mood to dance, I listen to another style of music.

Without credit card?

It isn't necessary for living (in Hungary). I have had a debit card for 2 years. Before I didn't have one. Without money you can't live nowadays but you don't have to be a millionaire. I don't need my credit card to impress.

Without computer?

I could live. I have had a computer for a year, however I have been waiting for it for a very long time. I often begged my parents but I never got it. My parents spent the money on training camps or skates etc. After a competition, I came home and I told them that now I wouldn’t spend all my money, but I would buy a PC. So far I have lived easily without it and there are so many people who really don't need it.

Without friends?

I can't live without them. They are the most important to me next to my family. I have a lot of buddies but I have only two real friends. Both things are different. My buddies couldn't help if I had problems, or they simply looked away. My friends stood by me. One of my friends was also a skater a long time ago. He was a good skater but at that time there were lots of skaters and hardly any money, and so few ladies in ice dance. That's why he had to quit.
To tell the truth, we hardly ever meet because he does martial arts and he is good at kung fu. His team is about to go to Olympic Games. Maybe he chose the wrong sport to begin with.
My kung fu master says the buddy is like a shadow. When the sun is shining your shadow follows you. When it is raining, the shadow disappears. It is the friend who holds the umbrella above you. This friend is my friend with the umbrella.

Without dreams/ambitions?

People need dreams, because people need to have a purpose in life. If you don't have hopes and dreams you can realise, there is no reason to live. I did have a dream that I am standing on the podium. I dreamt about winning this and that event. Maybe these dreams bring us on the way. Maybe these goals aren't so unreachable.
If I could do, I would rather dream my whole life. I would rather sleep than wake up and realize that things won't work out the way I hope. Hopes and dreams usually help you to reach your goals, or close to them.

Which of the above would be the worst?

I would miss the dreams mostly.

Please associate with a few words :

Figure skating is ... life.

Family is ... happiness.

Friends are ... reliability, trust. They are the sure points in your life.

Money is .... Hard question. They say there isn't life without money. For me it is the least important in my life, but I’m not saying that it is not important. People need money for some happiness. If you are wealthy but haven't got a family, then you sure aren't happy.

Sport ... is pleasure.

Love ... It is very important thing. People like to be loved. I am happy and it is enough if I am loved by those people who are important to me, whom I want to love me. I don't care about the opinion of the other people. Perhaps they watch ice dance on TV, but they don't know me and they have no chance to get to know more about me. So I care only about the love of the people I know well.

Peace ... It's a very important thing, too, Peace is connected with life. But there are always fights inside and outside of skating. You cannot avoid it. We all fight for the same goals. The results and places aren't important anymore, but you fight for the audience, for the people, the fans. This fight means the sport is for me.

Belief ... Perhaps this means our dreams. I believe one day my dreams will come true. The belief is connected with all the questions above, because I have to believe in all these things if I want them to become true.

Please choose between:

Movies or Books
Summer or Winter
Langos or Palacsinta
Summer camp or Small Demonstration
Swimming or Skiing
Shows or Competitions
Black or White
Original Dance or Free Dance
Partying or Sleeping
TV or Theatre
Judges or Fans
Balaton or Velence
Weightlifting or Ballet
Day or Night
Goulash or Pörkölt
Figure Skating or Being Rich

He smiled at me, said good-bye and ran away. He is an extremely active young man.
After leaving the ice, he immediately started to work-out off the ice in the Hotel Sport. Furthermore he has his eyes set on an international show in Europe.
I hope we can see him on the ice very soon.


And this concludes the first part of this series. There are several more interviews with the Hungarians to come, so don't forget to keep an eye on Absolute Skating! :)

Back to Part I


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