Hall of Famer credits swimmers for his success

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VANCOUVER – Jozsef Nagy says he can only be coined an innovator in the sport of swimming because his athletes have trusted his vision to put them among the best in the world.

“The wave breaststroke was revolutionary and this was the first swimming technique that was born on paper first and only then put into practice and proven,” said Nagy.

“This all sounds good, but would not have been enough without the proof of all those results that my swimmers achieved.”

Nagy, who guided Canada’s Annamay Pierse to three world record performances and a silver medal at the 2009 FINA World Championships, was recently inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

“I am very happy to get this award and I feel extremely honoured,” Nagy said. “My happiness only grew when I started to get phone calls and emails, then I started to really appreciate it. But above all, the best feeling is that my wife and children are proud of me and happy for me.”

Nagy began his coaching career 38 years ago in Hungary and is regarded as the top breaststroke coach in the world. Before coming to the National Swim Centre – Vancouver in 2006,  he also coached in Spain and the U.S. 

Regarded as the inventor of the wave breaststroke, his top pupils besides Pierse, included world champion and Olympic medallist Norbert Rozsa of Hungary, 1988 Olympic medallist Sergio Lopez of Spain, and American superstar Mike Barrowman, who broke six world records between 1989 and 1992 in the 200-m breaststroke. Barrowman was the first swimmer to perfect “the wave” and his record stood for more than a decade after the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

The wave channels a swimmer’s power into smooth, undulating motions that mimic the headlong movement of a large cat. The timing must be exact – or the swimmer will falter. Nagy has explained the concept while showing a tape of a cheetah. The cheetah kept his head down and lifted his shoulders to run. He asked swimmers to mimic the motion in the water.

“Jozsef has brought a standard of coaching and performance that has enhanced our program and Canadian swimming overall,” said Tom Johnson, the head coach at the National Swim Centre – Vancouver. “He is very passionate about swimming and has an unparalleled expertise in the breaststroke.”

Nagy says there is no secret to his success.

“I am not a magician,” he said. “I always wanted to get the best out of each of my swimmers. Success only comes if a good and experienced coach meets a talented swimmer who above all wants to achieve world class results.”

Pierse said she appreciated Nagy’s honest approach in his coaching. There was no sugar-coating in training or in competitions.

“My mental attitude changed a lot when I started to work with Jozsef,” said Pierse. “I knew I had to be better and he gave me the confidence that I could be better. I thought I used to train hard but he pushed me so far past what I dreamed I could have gone.”
Nagy was also noted for his eagle eye.

“In 2006, Jozsef was my last shot because I kept falling short in making teams,” said Pierse. “He broke my stroke down completely and then built it up. It took me three months to get it. I think he saw in me the potential, drive and desire. Every time I got faster he pushed me a bit more.”

In addition to Pierse, Martha McCabe trained under Nagy, winning the bronze medal at the 2011 World Championships and placing fifth at the Olympic Games in London in the 200-m breaststroke. 

Nagy continues to work with breaststrokers at the National Swim Centre – Vancouver, including 2012 Olympian Tera Van Beilen.

“We are excited he is here and working with our next generation of breaststrokers,” said Johnson.  “He has a great perspective and work ethic which has brought us a lot of success.”

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