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SZILVESZTER CSOLLANY, THE HUNGARIAN “LORD OF THE RINGS”, RIVAL OF JURY CHECHI – SportHistoria

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SZILVESZTER CSOLLANY, THE HUNGARIAN “LORD OF THE RINGS”, RIVAL OF JURY CHECHI – SportHistoria

Szilveszter Csollány in action at the Sydney 2000 Games – from:ma7.sk

Article by Giovanni Manenti

Hungary is a nation that boasts a good tradition in the discipline of Artistic Gymnasticsas certified by the Olympic medal table which places her in seventh position with 40 overall laurels, of which 15 Golds equally divided between the Men’s and Women’s sectors, with 8 and 7 respectively…

But while in the women’s field, this loot was almost entirely collected during only two editions (Helsinki 1952 and Melbourne 1956) of the Games thanks to the performance of the “legendary” Agnes Keleti – whom we have already discussed – and Margit Korondi, with only one subsequent statement by Henrietta Onodi at Vaulting in 1992 in Barcelona, ​​as far as the opposite sex is concerned the distribution is more varied.

Afterwards, in fact, the pioneering era of Istvan Pelle – Gold in Floor Exercise and Pommel Horse at the 1932 Los Angeles Games – the Magyar gymnasts distinguished themselves, upon resuming their activity following the tragic events of the Second World War, for having been able to excel in other specialties, starting from Ferenc Pataki, Gold in Floor Exercise in 1948 in London…

After him it’s up to emerge Zoltan Magyar who, in a period of absolute domination by Soviet and Japanese athletes, managed to carve out his own space on the Pommel Horsea tool that saw him establish himself both at the 1976 Montreal Games and four years later in Moscow, a specialty that saw Zsolt Borkai also climbed to the top step of the podium in 1988 in Seoulalbeit in cohabitation with the Bulgarian Lyubomir Gueraskov and the Soviet champion Dmitri Bilozertchev.

The Pommel Horse is a specialty particularly appreciated by Hungarian gymnasts, given that 5 of the 8 Gold Medals won for their country come from this apparatus, the last of which was won by Krisztian Berki at the London 2012 Gamesbut before him, at the turn of the century, another gymnast emerged capable of rising to the top of another apparatus which until then had not provided any satisfaction in terms of laurels to the Hungarian Federation, namely the Rings…

To break this negative tradition Szilveszter Csollany, who was born on 13 April 1970 in Budapestdedicating himself to artistic gymnastics at just six years of age, demonstrating good basic qualities which led him to join the Ujpest Dozsa sports club, as well as to obtain two fifth places in the Rings and Pommel Horse at the European Junior Championships 1986.

Youth event where, two years later, 18-year-old Csollany achieved his first podiums – silver in the Rings and bronze in the Pommel Horse – and then dedicated himself mainly to Rings, a specialty which saw him obtain the greatest satisfaction from his competitive activity…

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The entry into the Seniors sees the Hungarian athlete having to compete with the Italian athlete of almost the same age Jury Chechi, with the first opportunity to go on stage at the European Championships in Lausanne 1990, when he completed the podium with a score of 9.687 in the race that crowns Chechi ahead (9.837 to 9.712) of the East German Jens Milbradt …

Csollany’s growth path slowed down in the following two years, as she failed to qualify for the specialty finals at the 1991 World Championships in Indianapolis, while the following year, when Iridata review takes place in mid-April in Paris in view of the Summer Olympics in Barcelona, ​​Csollany celebrates 22 years by taking silver behind the Belarusian Vitaly Scherbo (9.900 to 9.850), even though the blue standard bearer was not present and also had to miss out on the Catalan Games due to a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Chechi’s absence should constitute an advantage for the Hungarian who, vice versa, despite qualifying for the eight-man final – as well as the Vault where he finished seventh – does not go beyond sixth place with an exercise rated 9.800 in a race which confirms Scherbo’s undisputed superiorityGold with 9,937 …

With the return of Chechi – who dominates the post-Olympic four-year period by making his own the world titles at the World Championships in Birmingham 1993, Brisbane 1994, Sabae 1995 and San Juan in Puerto Rico 1996, as well as winning the European Championships in Prague 1994 and Broenby 1996 – the Hungarian gymnast, like the others, only gets crumbs, consisting of the bronze at the 1994 European Championships and the silver at the 1996 World Championships.

In the latter circumstance, with the Tournament taking place in mid-April in view of the Olympic event at the end of July 1996 in Atlanta, Csollany performs an exercise awarded with 9.737 by the Jury, which allows him to share the second step of the podium with the Bulgarian Yordan Yovchevwhile the blue bearer took his fourth consecutive title with a score of 9.812, confirming his role as the absolute favorite at the Games…

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Prediction respected when, in Final which takes place on 28 July 1996 on the platforms of the “Georgia Dome”, the score of 9.812 assigned by the Judges to the Hungarian it only serves to equalize the same “score” by Romanian Dan Burinca for the silver award (with Yovchev on the edge of the podium with 9,800…), while Chechi fulfills the dream that eluded him four years earlier in Barcelonaregal with its 9.887.

By now, for Ring specialists, it seems clear that the possibility of success is linked to the presence or absence of the gymnast from Prato, who extended his collection of world titles also the following year in Lausanne, where 9,775 points were enough to relegate Csollany to second place again whose exercise does not go beyond 9,687…

Chechi’s announced retirement from competitive activity opens the doors to the hopes of his opponents, but to World Championships in mid-October 1999 in Tianjin the now 29 year old Hungarian is found this time the road to the top step of the podium blocked by the home athlete Dong Zhenwhich prevails (9.775 to 9.737) forcing him to postpone the appointment with a great international success.

Time is running out and one of the remaining possibilities is constituted by the “End of the Millennium Games” of Sydney 2000 which Chechi – who had resumed training precisely with a view to this objective – is forced to give up this time due to the rupture of the tendon of the left brachial biceps, thus leaving the field open to a competition that is highly uncertain and in which Csollany presents himself after being beaten (9.737 to 9.765) by the Greek Dimosthenis Tampakos at the European Championships at the end of May in Bremen…

Certain opportunities present themselves only once in a lifetime and we must not miss them and this is what Csollany manages to achieve who, in Final that begins at 6.15pm local time on the platforms of the “Sydney Super Dome” delivers a flawless performance awarded with 9,850 which represents a wide margin compared to the other two members of the podium, namely the already mentioned Tampakos and Yovchev, who classified in order with 9.762 and 9.737 respectively.

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Having reached the “Olympic Glory“after having crossed the threshold of 30 years, it represents the culmination of a career for the Hungarian gymnast, but it still remains a “box to fill”, that is, that of the world title, which up to now has only been achieved on four occasions…

The hope that the right opportunity is that of World Championships scheduled for early November 2001 in Gentwhere he presents himself as the outgoing Olympic Champion, vanishes for Csollany when the score of 9.712 he obtained is surpassed by Yovchev who receives 9.775 and perhaps it’s for the best, given that the following year the Exhibition is hosted by Debrecen, in your own country…

On the platforms of the “Fonix Hall” is repeated long-distance challenge between the Hungarian and the Bulgarian, but this time the first one gets the better (9.725 to 9.675), so much so as to be awarded for the second time, as already happened in 2000 after the Olympic triumph, the title of “Hungarian Athlete of the Year”, and there is no better way to end a prestigious career, no longer having the desire to sacrifice oneself in view of the 2004 Athens Games.

And, perhaps, this is one too apt decision, as Csollany is not so involved in the disputed Final which sees the Jury award the home athlete Tampakos compared to Yovchev (9.862 to 9.850), arousing a dramatic protest from Chechi, who finished in third place, in favor of the Bulgarian gymnast…

Once her activity was concluded, vice versa, Csollany did not abandon Artistic Gymnastics, dedicating herself to the role of technician first at home and then abroad, going to Iceland, Austria and Switzerland, before fall victim, a few months before turning 52, of the Covid-19 pandemic which leads to his death on January 24, 2022…

And “opponent” which he was unable to defeat…

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