She is the most experienced member of the host synchronised swimming team. She was the Synchronised Swimmer of the Year 3 times (2008, 2010, 2011), being 17 she was the youngest member of the whole Hungarian delegates in the London Olympic Games. However, a year later suddenly she retired from racing. Now the 17th FINA World Championships provides her with another chance and possibility. Szofi Kiss will certainly be a protagonist at the event in Városliget.
The Hungarian Synchronized Swimming Association appointed Natalia Tarasova (from Russia) as the head coach of the Hungarian national team a year and a half ago. She is a seven-time Russian champion, two-time junior world champion and four-time European champion. She did some of her studies in the US and once there, she seized the opportunity to win the US championships three times.
Later on she was working as a coach in Switzerland but in 2015 when she gave the go for the head coach position offered by the Hungarian Federation top Hungarian synchronized swimmers gained momentum, also, including Szofi Kiss, for instance, who returned to sport because of her (among others).
„I was very sorry that I could only watch the 2015 world championships on TV and could not make it to participate in the event in Kazan. It really gave me a great boost when Natalia was appointed head coach. After we sat down to talk there was no question that I would return. What is more, I am so enthusiastic that it feels as if I had not missed out a couple of years” – said Szofi Kiss, who is still 22 years old only.
Sport and hard work found her at an early age as she did ballet, swimming and influenced by her mother she started synchronized swimming in 2002 at the age of 7. She is still happy to reminisce about her fondest competition memory related to the London 2012 Olympic qualification, 10 years after taking up the discipline. She and her partner, Eszter Czékus at the time went down in sports history, since they qualified for the Games as the youngest synchronized swimming duet (the pair finished 21st in the Games).
As she put it, there were moments when she did not show as much humility as one should when it comes to sport. It also contributed to her decision to say goodbye to the sport for a while. Now the situation has changed, synchronized swimming means everything to her and she has changed a lot since the London Olympics. She has grown as a woman and improved a lot artistically most noticeably in her solo routines. The 2017 World Championships in her home country represent a huge motivation for her.
„The World Championships in Budapest mean a lot to me since it is quite rare to have such an opportunity to show your talents in your home country. This summer is especially important for me since it is my time to return, moreover, I feel I am in much better shape than I was during the Games five years ago. As a member of the national team I wish to show what I am made of and what this discipline has given me. In addition to pursuing strict, hard and disciplined work Natalia has forged us into a team by her attitude. There is no disunity in the team, we are good friends, we have programmes together, we give a hand to each other and it is a great thing. Coming to training sessions everyone feels like coming to our second family.”
Hungarian girls train 4-5 hours a day, whereas in training camp the daily pensum is 10 hours. Training is not easy, dry land training sessions, spiltting and stretching exercises often bring tears to our eyes not to mention extensive running and swimming exercises of several kilometres. However, the girls do their best and work humbly since there is a lot at stake.
In the Budapest World Championships Szofi Kiss might enter solo and in team, however, in solo synchronized swimming she will need to beat one of her best friends.
„Luca Rényi and I are still competing for qualification. I chose the song called ‘Magyarország’ for my short solo routine and similar Hungarian components will be added to all other programmes, also. Although technical routines consist of required elements we intend to bring the choreography and music together in a way that is touches the audience” – added Szofi Kiss.
It is very important for the Hungarian team to have inspiring members to keep the team together. Szofi Kiss is to take up such a leading role, too, according to Juli Kiss – former team member, participant in the 2006 and 2010 European Championships.
„Although Szofi joined Natalia’s team later, there is no sign of it. She has become a true leading character thanks not only to her skills in synchronized swimming but to her relationship with the girls, also. Szofi is the most experienced member of the team, this year might prove to be a major milestone for her. Competing in world championships of local audience is at least as outstanding as participating in the Games. Representing your home country in solo or duet competitions is a great privilege. Sofi is expected to perform 4-5 routines in the world championships and I am convinced that she will be prepared and do her best in July” – summarized Juli Kiss.
The Russian Natalia Ischenko and the French Virgine Dedediu had the greatest influence on Szofi and she considers the Russian Anastasya Davidova and Anastasia Ermakova her role models.
Regarding her medals so far she is most proud of the one won recently in Bonn with the Hungarian team but the ones won in the US championships mean a lot to her, also, due to their special reputation.
Her motto and good advice for herself and others goes like this: „ you must start it in order to be able to finish it”. This idea empowers her when she is down, not in a good shape, going through a rough period as well as before competitions.
„I remind myself of this idea when preparing for a solo routine during training sessions since I need to repeat routines multiple times thus it is even more killing. In the duet and the team our partner helps us out at critical points, whereas in solo one shall do everything on their own, it is good to have something to hold on to. In my case this motto serves this goal.”
Szofi Kiss attends Szent István University; after her sporting career she plans to take up a job as an agricultural engineer in environmental management. In her free time she likes reading, listening to music, hanging out with the girls and organizing programmes together. When at home the number one item on her wish list is the fish and goulash soup made by her father. Following the synchronized swimming competitions of the Budapest world championships she will most definitely be treated with a few portions.