Athletes Women › Fanni Szalai
At just 15 years old, Hungary’s Fanni Szalai became a Super League sensation this spring when not only did she become the youngest athlete to ever take on the Arena Games Triathlon Powered by Zwift, but finished third on debut.
The Hungarian protégé breezed through the heats in Sursee, finishing third behind team-mate and training partner Zsanett Bragmayer and Olympian and Commonwealth Games medallist Emma Jackson.
In the final, she produced further heroics, once again finishing in third behind winner Bragmayer and narrowly missing out on silver to part of Team Wales’ Commonwealth silver medal-winning relay team, Olivia Mathias.
Following her exceptional performance in Switzerland, more eyes were on Szalai at the Arena Games final in London, but the teenager did not fold under the pressure. Qualifying for the finals via the repechage, Szalai took full advantage of her strong run and slick transitions to stay in contention throughout the race, and finished a respectable eighth in a strong field, placing sixth overall in the series.
A natural talent, Szalai started swimming aged four and was just 10 years old when she joined her first triathlon team in Budapest. Her coach Csaba Kuttor says he “hasn’t seen such an amazing talent in 30 years in the sport”, adding that whether athletics, aquathlon, duathlon or triathlon, he can’t recall the youngster being beaten in junior competition.
Szalai says she loves all three disciplines equally but sees running as her strongest. Her cycling isn’t bad either though and still just 14 she won the Under-17 category in her debut cyclocross race in December.
Following the Arena Games baptism, the success has continued. Already a national aquathlon champion, Szalai became Hungarian national duathlon champion and then travelled to Caorle in Italy to win on Europe Triathlon Cup debut over the super sprint distance, beating a trio of French women more than three years her senior, including the soon-to-be world junior triathlon champion Ilona Hadhoum. Two days later, Szalai followed it up by anchoring a Hungarian quartet to a team mixed relay win over the French at the same venue.
More success came on home soil in July where she won by more than a minute over a less than sprint distance format in Tiszaujvaros to make it two Europe Cups wins out of two, before heading to Banyoles in Spain where she claimed the 2023 European Youth Championship and a second place in the mixed team relay.
Now less of an unknown quantity, Szalai will line up for the Santara Tech Eagles in her first start in a Super League Triathlon Championship Series race. Her father Geza says: “We are very lucky as parents because we don’t have to push her to go to training, she is pushing us!” It will be fascinating to see how far she can go.
Results posted shortly after the race may contain errors.
RR - Race Ready | TBD - To Be Determined | DNS - Did Not Start | DNF - Did Not Finish
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