Talking to the Hungarian Team
Series part 1


Hungary is having quite a team of skaters these last years. Most of them still train in their own country and not abroad. As a special project, Adastra, Helga, & Kati went to the Jégcsarnok icerink in Budapest, to talk to several of them for Absolute Skating, as well as for Pixieworld.

Not only skaters will get the mike, but also some coaches. Some interviews were in-depth, others were mostly focused on fun. All interviewees filled out the same 'fluff' questions and choices at the end. Join us for the first part of this marvelous series!

1.2 Szabolcs Vidrai

by Helga Dobor
Photos © Helga Dobor & Satoko


Szabolcs Vidrai is the best figure skater ever in the Hungarian men’s field. The first thing that comes to my mind about him is: you all have to get to know him! He coaches the talented Viktória Pavuk, and they run home arm in arm! His enthusiasm always draws people towards him. Read his appreciative words about his idols, friends and colleagues.


You placed 10th at the World Championships, Minneapolis, in 1998. An Hungarian skater has never placed so high. How did that feel?
I am very proud of it, up to this day. This is my most joyous competition. Not only because I finished in 10th place, but it was a good competition. There was a good selection of skaters from other countries. Minneapolis is a very nice place. If you were to ask what is my most memorable competition, I would answer the same. This is the competition next to my heart. Everything went well. I was in top form and my conditioning was 100%.

In the next World Championships you placed 20th. It is still a great position, but after the previous year’s result there is a big difference. How did you handle this situation? How did you feel?
Helsinki. I wasn't in best condition. I had problems with my knee. My conditioning was only about 50-60% . After the competition, the Federation asked me why I had competed there while I was in pain, but I have never regretted it. The atmosphere was great. Unfortunately I had problems with my triple axel and triple toe loop.


At the1998 Olympics in Nagano, you finished in 13th place. What did that mean to you?
It was a great experience. I was very excited in the weeks preceding the Olympics. I wanted to skate well. It was a big challenge, and I felt that I could take advantage of this opportunity. The competition was really well organized.

What is the main difference between a competition and Olympics?
In Nagano, we lived in an Olympic village. We were separated by countries - not together with the other skaters. It was strange - the athletes I shared with weren’t skaters and we didn’t know each other well. The organizers pampered us. There was lots to do, gaming-rooms, a huge restaurant for more then hundred people. It was fantastic.

You skated in the same era as Kulik, Cousins, Stojko and Yagudin. How did they influence your skating? Which skater inspired you at the start of your career?
It would be Yagudin, of course, but let’s start at the beginning.
In my childhood, I admired Brian Orser and Brian Boitano. I loved the rivalry between them. They had a big influence on my skating. At World Championships in 1988 (in Hungary) I was flower sweeper. I sat next to the Kiss & Cry Corner. It was so great to see my favourite skaters. While they practiced together, they talked to each other. These memories live so clearly in my mind. They impressed me so much.
Although it was only an everyday occurrence - two skaters talking while practising together – it was an amazing moment for me. I can still remember it clearly - I could tell you what colour his t-shirt was.

Elvis Stojko. A humane athlete. I want to emphasise my admiration of this Canadian skater and the style he represented. On the ice, aesthetically, he didn't look as good as Steven Cousins, but how he skated.
He is really the most humane skater I’ve met. His virtue is surpassing. He should be the moral role-model of the athletes, besides he is warm-hearted and friendly!

Yagudin. He is the best. A friend of mine. We spent lots of time together. Our friendship started at Worlds, in 1998, or at the Olympics? He is very warm-hearted. He has the biggest heart among the people I know. Firm as a rock, if we consider his mental attitude both as skater and off-ice too. He is very strong. His concentration capacity and his talent is huge. His skating style is so beautifully clear, technically correct and he has so big an aura that I had butterflies in my stomach when I saw him skating. In my mobile-phone there is his program, the Gladiator. I revere him! Even if he wasn’t in peak 100% condition, he could do his programs. He always skated his best in those 4 minutes! Only one in a million can do this.

How and when did you start to skate?
I started to skate in 1985. I was 7-8 years old then. It was the latest age that a child could start this sport. My first competition was in 1986. Everything went so fast with me in skating.

Was there any skater in your family? How did you come across this sport?
There wasn’t any skater in my family. I discovered the sport when I visited my cousins. They had skating boots they didn’t use and they gave them to me. They asked my parents to take me skating, so my mother brought me to a rink. My parents couldn’t skate. She took me to an ice school and my mother took me to the coach and asked him to take care of me, because she wouldn’t be able stay with me on the ice. That’s where it started. I stood there on the ice. It was funny. The coach, after a while, saw how I glided on the ice, up and down and said: “Hey mother, don’t tell me it is his first time on the ice. I can't believe it!”
Then he advised us to go the Ice School Piruett, to the coach István Simon. I started to learn skating there.
I liked skating very much, but I didn't like when in my elementary, and later in my high school, my schoolmates knew what I did, that I participated in this sport.
I thought that it was a woman’s sport and it was difficult to tell them. I lied to them. I told them that I played hockey. Then my mother accidentally gave the secret away..

Did your opinion change later on?
It is very interesting, but today I think differently. Figure skating is a very beautiful sport but it doesn't have to mean that it is a feminine sport. It is full of power and involves acrobatic elements (because of the jumps) which make this sport interesting. Its artistry is the whipped cream on the cake. Overall, it is very complex and aesthetic, but if you have to rank it, it is among the three most difficult technical sports. Shall I say more?
Yes please!
Because this is a technical sport, it is a scoring sport, which can upset a lot of people, but you have to learn how to handle this! Everybody has his own setbacks. I had them too. I also felt so many times that it was unfair. I was also disappointed. Since I've worked as a coach, I can see things from another angle – all my results were realistic. Even if the results seemed to be unfair at the time, those were really my true results.
In Moscow I spoke with a judge, and I told him that they had it right. I took criticism badly then, I can admit that now, but the judges were right. You have to listen to the judges, and I made a mistake, I didn’t do that. If you apply all the information you get from the judges to your work, you will be more successful. Because the judges sit on the another side and they give you the points!

Who do you think will be the big talent of the future?
That is a very difficult question. I don’t think there will be so big a sporting rivalry like there was between Yagudin and Plushenko, in the men's field. I don’t feel that there could be such highly equalled talents. If I have to say a name, then Johhny Weir has an interesting style. In the Ladies, I like Sasha Cohen very much, her style enchants me. And there is Viki too – smiles.

Why is it easy to work with Viki and why is it hard?
It is easy to work with her because she wants to skate as well as possible and to be as good athlete as she can be. She is contumacious- in its positive meaning, and that’s why it is easy and hard too.

When Viki skates you are at the board and you follow her every movement, as if you would skate together with her. Is the pressure bigger on you during her competitions than it would be at yours?
You are observant. The pressure is bigger on me coaching, than when I was on the ice. And yes, I skate together with her! Perhaps it will change later. Perhaps not. I don’t want to lie, I don’t know how I will work in 20 year's time.
We won't hold you to ransom with this sentence 20 years later!
It's not excitement or nervousness but an exaggerated state of mind. I empathize her situation. Perhaps that doesn’t help, but we go arm in arm with our aims.

And which do you prefer, to stay at the boards or to skate?
I think I like coaching better. I would go on the ice, often with little motivation or inclination to work with a coach and prepare for the season. I didn't want it anymore. But when something doesn't work for the children, then I go straight on the ice and show them how to do it. I found the beauty in both sides.

You skated at the same time as Krisztina Czakó. Was there friendship between you ? What was your relationship like with other skaters?
Kriszti and I didn't have a long-term friendship. When we were 10 years old, we were friends, as were our parents. But later we moved in different directions, so our acquaintance became simply athletic-based.

Where is the most memorable country for you?
Australia – you don’t get to go there very often. Go there! Especially in December. See it in spring. These memories will always stay with me. The competition was successful too. I would go back anytime.
Canada – I never was disappointed in this country. It’s a super country with well-organised competitions. They are correct and precise in everything.

What is your biggest treasure in your life?
My life – smiles

How could you live without your skates?
Well, after some time.

Without sport?
It would be boring

Without music?
It cannot be

Without credit card?
I am ok without it

Without computer?
No problem

Without friends?
It's not life

without dreams?
I don't remember my dreams

Which of the above would be the worst?
Without friends

Please associate with one or two words :

Figure skating is ...
the sport

Family is ...
the support

Friends are ...

Money is ....

Sport ...
the past and present

Love ...

Peace ...

Belief ...
something is worth


Movies or Books
Summer or Winter
Langos or Palacsinta
Summercamp or Small Demonstration
Swimming or Skiing
Shows or Competitions
Black or White
Short Program or Long Program
Partying or Sleeping
TV or Theater
Judges or Fans
Balaton or Velence
Weightlifting or Ballet
Day or Night
Goulash or Pörkölt
Figure Skating or Being Rich


What would you sing at karaoke?
Bonanza Banzai (a famous band in Hungary in the 90's ages.)

Who makes you laugh?
People with good humour – laughs.

Do not miss the third interview in this series, with Dejan Illes. Tomorrow on AS!
For reading the first interview, the one with Viki Pavuk, click here!


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