Dóri Pásztory: ‘I have several matters close to my heart here at home!”

We had a special visitor in Iron Swim School Budapest on Saturday, Dóra Pásztory two-time Paralympic champion. She came not only to see her ex-pupil Zoé, swimmer of Iron Swim who is preparing for the Nationals, but to meet up with Bence Vados, swimming teacher and head of the para section of the club and whom she handed over the kids in Suhanj! Foundation some years ago.

‘Bence is a real whisperer, he deals with people in an awesome way. Zoé (Zoé Elizabet Sallai) was one of my first pupils, when I took over my mentor Coach Pike’s (István Málnai) kids in the foundation. Zoé was around six at that time, but already very confident. Her skillfulness and neatness also gave me some confidence, since in the beginning I did not really know what to do with them. I brought out the things I remembered from my childhood, what we did and how we did them. At the foundation everyone was shocked by Coach Pike’s death, he passed away suddenly. We all tried to do our best to give back to the new generation everything we had received as a child. I truly feel that swimming is the best sport for people living with deficiency. From very early age you must march on by the pool deck wearing only a swim suit, there is no place to hide anything. If you can do it with your head up, it gives you so much confidence for your whole life that you will not hide it either in the classroom nor at parties as a teenager. I am so glad that swimming got into Suhanj! program, because it gives more to people than only moving in water. Bence with his own example, and his charism can teach much more to the kids than just how to hold their arms while swimming freestyle. It was a great pleasure for me that he undertook and took the kids from me, because he helps to give them this kind of confidence and approach. If they can see that you can live quite a good life with less fingers and shorter arms, they might deal with it easier.’

You have been living in London with your family for years, but as I can see you have not left your mates, friends, pupils to themselves.

‘Poor my husband, he always complains that he loses me for two weeks when we are at home in Hungary, since I have so many matters close to my heart. But I do not mind, because this way I can live a full life in London, and I did not have to tear the bonds from the public life I have been being in for 15 years. When we are at home, I can meet Bence or have a coffee with Árpi (Árpád Petrov, Katinka’s coach), we can talk about session plans, or when I go to Pécs, I always visit Coach Tolja, (Anatolij Petrov, Árpi’s father). For me these bonds are so deep and important that they cannot be torn even from 1700 km.’

Now you also teach in a local swim school in London. How did it start and why? Did you miss the atmosphere?

‘Now, as my son has turned five and got into the school system, I have much more free time. Although journalism gives me much freedom, I felt that I needed a leg in London, too, because everything bonded me to Hungary. Due to some fortunate encounters I graduated a coaching course that is much shorter than in Hungary. The two are very different. There you can be a swimming teacher in 12 days. In the course there were people working at a café for example, because the hourly rate is higher at the pool. I also met some people who could not even swim. They did not jump in deep water at all. Now I benefit from the knowledge I acquired from Coach Csaba (dr Csaba Sós, national coach) and from what I learned in TF (Hungarian Sports University).”

I guess you are highly appreciated there, then.

‘In a city where the Olympics and Paralympics were held just a couple years ago, there is no need to explain this, and the athletes are really appreciated. I am in a good place where I am loved and I love the people I work with, too. I consider other coaches as mentors, I can turn to them for any help I need. At the beginning I was very uncertain about how to do it and because of the whole coaching thing. I always said I would never be a coach, no way. I thought I was not cruel enough, I was too soft-hearted. Now I work with 8-12-year old kids, whom I do not need to be hard with, but I can coach them well. There is a Romanian head coach in the club, only two years older than me, we came from the same background, he also represents the East-European mentality. There is order and discipline and many technique work. We put a big emphasis on teaching the basic technical elements.’

Can you put in your own mentality, too?

‘I think the kids like me. I have my own child, so the pedagogical part is easier for me. I know how to discipline them without losing good partnership. I want them to feel that I am with them and not against them. My accent, the language creates a special situation, too, they know that ‘I am Dora from Hungary’ and although they laugh at my expressions and pronunciation, they are cute and helpful. I have a tattoo of the Olympic rings and the sign of Paralympics around my ankle at eye level for them, that may give me some respect. I had already showed them my medals, too. They know that in my lessons there is much technique and medley, since my main event was the 200 IM.’

Back to Zoé, what can you see in her? Do you think she can follow your track?

‘I have not seen Zoé for seven years. At that time, she was a cute little girl and now she is already a young woman, confident and disciplined. Though her smile is the same. And if she can smile in the water too, there should not be any problem. I am very glad that she can arrange coming five times a week, she is in good hands here with Bence and in Iron Swim, where the whole career path is well-built, there is chance for her to go forward as she improves. For me it meant a lot to be able to swim against swimmers without any deficiency. I always measured myself to them. I would be very upset, when for example I was taken to a competition in Harkány and I finished last. But it gave me a good base that helped me compete in my category easier. Now, looking at Zoé, I think I was a lot lazier than her and I started only at the age of 11. How old is she now?’

She will be 12.

‘She is much more ahead of me. I hope that she will be very successful. What will be after Tokyo? Paris in 2024. To tell you the truth, I will buy my ticket now to Paris to see her there.’

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