Race Diaries 2023 #6: Relays of Hamburg

Marti Kropko at the Mixed Relay World Championships

Experiencing the biggest event of my life

Hamburg was the biggest event I have ever participated in. It took place in the heart of a large city, which attracted a massive number of spectators. People lined up along the course, cheering and shouting so loudly that I couldn’t even hear the times announced by my family, so they had to write them down on a whiteboard. It was a completely new experience for me, and it was fantastic.

Originally, I came to compete in the elite relay at the World Championship. I was extremely excited. Along with the honor, it also brought a huge responsibility to compete with the country’s best elite athletes as part of the team. I knew I had to give my best and, of course, not make any mistakes.

The briefing took place in a beautiful building, with people from all around the world, whom I usually ask for autographs and pictures. They are the biggest stars in our sport, Olympic and World Champions, whom I usually only see competing in live broadcasts. They are people from whom I learn. Oh my, what am I doing here at the age of 20?

Before the race, the usual preparations were underway: pre-race training, stretching, massage, etc. The Elite relay took place on Sunday. On Friday evening, it was first considered that I might also compete in the U23 relay on Saturday as one of the U23 relay team members, Romina Nádas, unfortunately, had a serious fall during the individual race, requiring stitches on her chin. Her shoulder was also injured, which made it uncertain if she could give her 100% in the relay. The decision was postponed until Saturday morning, hoping that she would recover suddenly. Finally, about 3 hours before the start, it was confirmed that I would be competing in the U23 relay.

I felt a mix of emotions. I felt sorry for Romina, happy for the opportunity, nervous about my upcoming race, and a bit worried about whether I could perform well on both days.

Romina was very kind. I visited her before the race, and her encouragement meant a lot in that situation.

Marti Kropko starating her leg

An unexpected start

In the U23 relay, I ran the second leg. I received the relay in 13th place and knew I had to make up as much ground as possible in terms of positions. I managed to pass several opponents during the swim, then cycled until I caught up with the 2nd group, which was far ahead. During the run, I gained more positions, ultimately improving 8 spots, and handed over the relay in 5th place. After the race, it turned out that I had the best overall time among all women in the entire U23 relay. I don’t really know how that could happen, but I am happy I could give my best and improve our relay. The Hungarian U23 relay eventually finished in 5th place at the World Championship. My relay teammates were Gergo Kiss, Zsombor Dévay, and Karol Horváth. Congratulations to them, and I also wish Romina a quick recovery and good luck at the European Championships!

After the race, I started my cool down, got a quick massage, had a delicious lunch, and then headed to bed for rest, as a bigger challenge awaited me the next day.

Introducing the Hungarian Relay Team

The highest stage of Mixed Relays

The next day felt like déjà vu. Once again, I attached my race number, warmed up, and felt nervous. I was with my Hungarian relay team members - Csongor Lehmann, Zsanett Bragmayer, and Márk Dévay. There were even more world stars preparing and warming up around me. Oh my, I don’t know what I’m doing here. I still need to get used to this. Seeing them live is quite new to me, let alone competing against them.

I didn’t feel tired from the previous day. My legs felt fresh.

This time, I was the fourth leg, also known as the finishing leg, in the relay. Excitement overwhelmed me as I watched my relay teammates compete while getting ready for my own part. I noticed that the pace and determination were different - perhaps I can use the word “aggressive.”

Marti Kropko entering the tunnels

My turn came slowly… I received the baton in 3rd place, 14 seconds behind the second-place New Zealand athlete, with Germany’s excellent competitor Laura Lindemann swimming about 10 seconds ahead of me. I knew competitors were coming from behind, quite close, so I didn’t want to be left alone in the “empty hole”. I swam as fast as I could and managed to catch up and exit the water after a 300m swim ahead of the New Zealander. During the relay race, a stormy wind arrived, making it challenging on the highly technical course. I was glad not to be alone on the bike, although I led for a long time. In the second lap, we were caught by the Swiss athlete, Cathia Schär, who is a super powerful cyclist in the field. I had the opportunity to train with her for a month in the spring, and we became good friends. The three of us worked together and made some gains on Lindemann, but catching up with her was out of reach. The pace was fast, and I even got caught in one of the barriers, but I managed to correct it to avoid any trouble.

I started the run in 4th place, but I knew that Rappaport from the USA was close to me and a very strong runner. I hoped she wouldn’t catch up, but the 16-second advantage proved to be insufficient against her, and in the end, we finished the Elite relay in a respectable 5th place, beating many fantastic teams. I am really happy that the Hungarian relay achieved such a good result at the World Championship.

Marti laying on the blue carpet fully exhausted

Of course, I compared my times in the U23 and Elite relays. The U23 time was slightly better, fortunately not by much. One reason for this was probably that the U23 relay took a bit out of me, and the other reason was the stormy wind that arrived on the day of the Elite relay. I’m glad I could give my best to both relays and that I haven’t made any mistakes. I want to thank my team for their trust and my teammates for their awesome work.

Marti Kropko climbing the Corvatsch mountain

Final thoughts

Currently, I am in St. Moritz, Switzerland in a high-altitude training camp. There’s been a need for a load of training before the second part of the season.

Thank you for taking the time to read this race-summary post. If you don’t want to miss anything fresh here, follow me on Instagram, where I will always share if a new article is up. If you found a mistake or have an idea for the future, please do not hesitate to reach out to me on the given platforms!

Cheers and See Ya next time! :)

Disclaimer: Few of the photos above were taken by World Triathlon and they are the respectful owners.