Whether on patrol or in pool, Balazs ready for challenges

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TORONTO – As an Olympic open water swimmer, Zsofi Balazs admits she had some advantages over her classmates in training to become a Toronto Police officer.

‘’From a physical standpoint I definitely had the endurance and that put me ahead a bit,’’ said the 24-year-old, who placed 18th in the 10-kilometre race at the 2012 Olympics. She was the first Canadian woman to compete in the event at the Games.

“My big challenges were more with the coordination exercises. As was the case with everyone else there were things I struggled with. It was tough but rewarding.’’

Balazs knows all too well the importance of self-discipline and perseverance to achieve her goals. Those gruelling 5 a.m. practices at the pool certainly came in handy in her police training and studies.

‘’As athletes we are trained not to give up and to extend ourselves when you are tired,’’ she said. ‘’It’s something that I know how to deal with and that can only help me in my police career.’’

The Hungarian-born Balazs was officially hired in April and began her patrolling duties in September. She achieved a lifelong dream to don the uniform. However it was only back in 2010 that she made the decision to go for a career in policing for real.

While she develops a new chapter in her life with Toronto’s finest, Balazs is also still pursuing her open water swimming goals. She wants to compete at the Pan American Games next summer in Toronto. If her performances there are encouraging, she could seek a berth on the 2016 Olympic team for Rio.

‘’I would like to go to Rio and anything can happen,’’ said Balazs. ‘’But right now we are taking it one day at a time. It’s not easy to combine my two pursuits but once I have a routine in place I think it will improve. Right now it’s new.’’

Balazs, who is coached by Linda Kiefer at the Toronto Swim Club, is realistic that it will be difficult to return to her top form.

‘’I took four months off from swimming for the police schooling and only came back in September,’’ she said. ‘’That’s a long absence less than a year from the Pan Ams and two years from the Olympics.’’

Balazs has overcome many challenges so far. Don’t discount her pursuit of a new one.

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