Krisztina CzakÃ³: "Yes, the Hungarians are there, and they can skate"
By: Helga Dobor
Photos: @ Krisztina CzakÃ³
Krisztina CzakÃ³ started skating earlier than you can imagine and unfortunately the end of her career was also very early, in 1999. She is still very young, but we (Hungarians) are very lucky that she never said a real goodbye to figure skating.
She surely was infected with the love of figure skating before her birth, being from a skating family. What else can you expect when you have a speed-skater mother and a figure skater champion father who had a skating jump named after him? (Czako jump or Wolley/Robertson jump as it is called in America. It is a simple jump from a back inside edge, landed on the same foot on a back outside edge)
Thank you very much to Krisztina for the technical information! Hungarian readers can find details about the end of her career and about her connection with the federation in an interview with her father, GyÃ¶rgy CzakÃ³.
When did you start skating?
You will be surprised, but very early. I was 11 months old – smiles.
I started taking a few steps already when I was 10 months old. A bit later, Daddy got someone to cut adult blades and fit them to my shoes, because they didn't sell skates in size 19 anywhere. I still have them to this date! Of course my parents definitely didn't put me on the ice so they could teach me to skate – but it's the only place where they could take care of me. My grandparents had passed away and nobody could stay home with me. So they always brought me with them when they went to work, to give skating lessons. At first, I just roamed around amongst others; later I tried to do the same as the other students, and my parents couldn't help but fixing my mistakes. I was five years old when I attended my first competition.
Would you tell us about your family and their career?
I thank my family a lot for the life I have had so far, and for the rest of my life! Thanks to them, I was able to go around the world, learn to speak two languages, learn to lose, appreciate the success of others, get up from the floor, fight for something even when it's more and more difficult, and keep everything I received from life!
I'm very proud of them! My mother used to do speed skating. Later, she worked as a coach and an international judge. She was strict, but full of love. I felt she lived for me. Unfortunately, last January, because of a serious sickness, we lost her. My father used to do figure skating. He was a three times Hungarian Senior Champion in the 50's. Later he skated in the Hungarian Ice Revue for 8 years. He has been a coach since; the best – smiles.
Did you have idols in skating?
Yes. I'm a visual person, so, with Mommy, we watched a lot the "big skaters". Brian Boitano, Brian Orser, Debi Thomas, Robin Cousins. I could learn a lot from them. Up to this day, my favourite is Midori Ito. She could jump the triple axel and triple-triple combinations 10 to 15 years ago, when other skaters would be happy with landing three different triples in a long program. Of course, since then, figure skating has improved a lot, because the connecting elements, the spins and the steps are now better harmonized. But I haven't seen any skater since then who could jump as well as Midori did.
Have you ever met any of your idols?
Yes. In 1992, at the Olympics in Albertville, I met Midori Ito. I was 13 years old at the time. A photo reporter took a photo of us, the youngest athlete in the whole Olympics and the probable winner of the competition. This photo was interesting not only because of that, but I was taller than Ito by a head, and to make a good photo, I had to bend my knees. At that point, Ito grew into my heart, she is very modest!
What do you like in figure skating?
Figure skating represents both a sport and artistry for me. What is good in this sport is that it is beautiful and you can move as much as you want. It is not aggressive and it has a lot of variety. In the other sports, it's repetitive every year (time, kilograms, distance, speed). In figure skating you learn new choreographies every year, and you can also create new elements.
In Hungary, you are the most successful lady skater, who could prove year after year that her place is in the top ten at every world competition. No other Hungarian skaters were able to win a Grand Prix competition like you did at Skate Canada in 1994. What was the most important, the most special result for you?
Thank you very much for the honourable mention. The most important for me is the silver from the Europeans in Paris, and also the win at Skate Canada. That competition turned out very well. I beat big skaters, and it was so good to get the appreciation of an audience, who was an adept of figure skating and who enjoyed my presentation. (Laetitia Hubert FRA, Jessica Mills USA, Marina Kielmann GER, Angela Derochie CAN, Jennifer Robinson CAN – ed.) And I'm also very proud that I won seven Hungarian National Championships as a senior, seven years in a row.
You were 11th at the Olympics in 1994! This is also a fantastic result! Were you satisfied or would you have liked to have better results there?
It didn't happen too often that I was satisfied with myself, but perhaps this helped me to improve. I rarely looked at where I was ranked. I preferred to keep my mind set on my program. If the program wasn't perfect, I wasn't satisfied. I always tried to show something new to set me apart from the field, do something special that others didn't do. I needed that because in the international field they "didn't notice" the Hungarian skaters. I wanted to show, that "Yes, the Hungarians are there, and they can skate". For a couple of years, I could fight out, and allow more Hungarian skaters to participate to competitions, both in junior and senior – as it depended on the results from the last year. And that is the success for me! That's what I am satisfied with!
In two years you were three times on the podium of junior events. How did you like these competitions?
I feel bad about Junior Olympics. I had a bad long program. I could do better. But I'm still proud of my bronze medal.
Before the Junior World Championships in Colorado, there was Skate Canada. I didn't have a lot of time between the two competitions. We didn't have time to travel home because we would have had to adjust to the time difference, and then travel back and adjust again. So I brought my school books with me, and I stayed there with Daddy. It was a fantastic experience! I could train with Michelle Kwan (who won the Junior Worlds later). Between the two competitions, we also had the advantage of training at high altitude. The Junior Worlds were held on high altitude where you get tired easier and you have to breathe faster. So we had time to get used to those conditions.
What about the Junior Worlds here in Hungary? You can think that skating in front of a home audience, in your country, would be a special feeling. I tried to invite as many people as possible to support me, but on the grandstand, you could hardly see Hungarian people. The Americans reserved the seats and sections there, several months before the event. There were more of them than the home audience. Did Hungarian people know that in the Budapest Sportcsarnok there was a junior figure skating Worlds Championships at that time? I doubt it. But it wasn't that bad, and I'm very proud of this Bronze medal too.
What is your most memorable, favourite program?
I liked the Addams Family best, because I won my silver medal in Paris with that program, at the European Championships. Until that time, a lot of people said that I jumped well, but that my presentation wasn't good. With this long program, I could prove them wrong! – smiles.
What was your favourite element?
I liked the Toe-loop and the Axel the most. These were the easiest for me and I could land them very beautifully.
You had already gotten very good results, but you were still so young, and to assume this responsibility while others just played in school couldn't be easy.
I already answered in some of your questions that I'm proud of a lot of things, but perhaps I'm mostly proud that I was never a private student, like other athletes. Both at the elementary and high schools, I attended school, like my classmates. I also graduated from college while practicing the sport. When I had a competition, I asked my teachers which lessons they would teach while I was away. I brought my books to the competitions and, when I came back home, I either had a repetition or I did a school exercise. I'm not saying that it was easy. I had to give up a lot of things. I only went on two school trips, and not too many birthday parties either. But it was worth it. It was a better feeling for me to stand on top of the podium!
Did your friends follow your career with attention?
Sometimes, I felt that some of my classmates envied me, but I think that children can be forgiven for this – smiles. Most of them were proud of me. In both of my former schools, there is still a photo of me on the bulletin board and it is a very good feeling for me!
Your connection with the Hungarian Skating Federation wasn't too good. Did it affect your skating?
Luckily, when I skated, I didn't feel it so much because my parents took care of dealing with the federation so that I could focus on skating. I was confronted with these facts only when I got older. It happened that they changed a rule in favour of my rival, and later, when I moved up to a higher level, they applied the previous old rules again.
Why did all this happen?
My mother was a very sincere person, and she always told her opinion. Not everybody took it the right way.
When did you finish competing?
I was 20 years old then. And it was for several difficult reasons.
If you could start over again, would you do it the same way?
Let's quote the song:
Ha Ãºjra kezdhetnÃ©m, ezerszer Ãºjra megtennÃ©m,
Mert minden Ãgy volt jÃ³, a szÃvem lÃ¡ngol, t?z forrÃ³,
Ha Ãºjra kezdhetnÃ©m, ezerszer Ãºjra megtennÃ©m,
Mert mindez Ãgy volt szÃ©p, ha nem lennÃ©l miÃ©rt lennÃ©k.
If I could restart, I would do it over and over again,
Because everything was good that way, my heart is in flames, burning hot,
If I could restart, I would do it over and over again,
Because everything was beautiful that way, if you wouldn't be why would I be?
You chose a job that is totally different from skating; you are an IT engineer. Did you completely move away from skating?
Yes, it's true. On the surface, figure skating has nothing to do with informatics – smiles.
I liked maths and languages better than humanities and I was always interested in computers. In Hungary you cannot make a living with figure skating or by teaching figure skating. My parents worked as coaches after their regular work hours, but as a hobby only. Mommy worked for one of the biggest banks. Daddy worked as mechanical engineer. So I inherited my engineering talent from him – smiles. I got married in 2004. I met my husband in college. We graduated at the same time and he is also a computer technologist.
Are you still in contact with figure skating?
Yes. In the summer camps, I do choreography work for Daddy's pupils and I teach those moves to the students. I also go to the practice rink during the season to see how they progress. I follow the champions of the future with attention – smiles.
And do you follow the competitions with attention too?
Of course; I watch every European Championships, Worlds, and I saw the Olympics too. I also go to the ice rink to watch the children's competitions.
Who do you think is the talent of the future?
Unfortunately TV channels only show the big skaters, so I don't know who the upcoming international skaters are. But I was happy to hear that there is an American girl who landed a triple axel in competition, but she was too young to compete at the Worlds. I'm very curious!
Here, in Hungary the field was weakened, which is unfortunate. But it is very promising that we might get to see the end of the tunnel – with the very young skaters. Eszter Szombathelyi, the winner of the Budapest Championship 2006, in the novice category, and winner of the National Championships (novice), is very talented.
What do you think of the Olympics?
It is more interesting now to watch the competitions, since the jumps are not the only important element anymore. The spins and steps now have more importance, and the difficulty of the connecting elements has also been increased, which makes the programs more balanced. Among the top skaters it was a very exciting and big competition! Unfortunately this year wasn't the year of Hungarians. But I think that Viki deserved higher marks!
What is the future of the Hungarian skating?
It is hard for the Hungarian skaters to compete against the skaters who live in a town which has 8-10 indoor skating rinks, but still, our situation is better than in the time of Budapest Sports court. I have trust in the Hungarian skaters. I think that the competitive situation will help them, and that they can show how well the Hungarians can skate!
Is it easier or more difficult to skate under the new judging system?
More difficult, because it is not enough anymore to learn the new elements, you have to make variations; you have to make it more beautiful and more difficult. In Hungary we still work with the 6.0 system in novice competitions, but they also have to be prepared to learn all the new rated elements.
Can there be friendship in skating?
Of course! On the ice we are rivals, but we can make good friends off the ice! The summer camps are usually abroad, and we have the possibility to prepare for the new season with the skaters who live there. A lot of friendships can be developed during those camps. But usually, in a club, there is good-fellowship, and there can be friendship too.
Do you have any advice to give to the parents who bring their children to take skating lessons?
Do not hesitate! The earlier the children start to skate, the easier it will be for them, and the more they can learn! Usually, those who want to learn skating come too late. The ideal age is 3-4, but it is worth starting even at the later age of 7-8! The coaches give lessons to the youngest children by playing, but it can still happen that the lessons don't make a hit for the children at first. In this case, I would advise cheering for them, don't give up! Perhaps this first moment of non-success is only caused by the new and unfamiliar place. You have to help them succeed in skating, help them feel the love of skating.
What is your biggest treasure in life?
It's the love of my husband and of my father. And while she lived, it was the love of my mother too.
Please give us an association with the following words:
Figure skating is... sport and artistry in one.
Family is... the meaning of my life.
Friends: People are sociable, they need friends.
Money... is needed.
Sport is... motion.
Love is... the most important thing in life.
Peace... should be natural.
Belief... without it you can't live.