“I tried to be the kind of example that you can always start a new life and improve on your life. Never give up, because there is always a chance somewhere.”
Hungarian Peter Boronkay can clearly recall the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games.
He had been training for the Swimming event since the age of eight. But come Games time, he found himself beside the pool, sitting in the stands.
He had failed to qualify. He had disappointed Istram Malani, his “second father” who taught him to swim as a young child.
Everything that he had hoped for suddenly blew up in his face.
“It was a tough time,” Boronkay said. “That’s when I was about to graduate from college and look for a job, so everything was coming down at the same time.”
Seven years later, Boronkay, who was born with a lower-arm impairment, finds himself training for the 2011 International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championships, which will take place in Beijing, China, on 7 September. He has transitioned to a new sport – one which will debut at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games – and has already won four European Championships and two World Championships in the Tri4 competition category for those with arm impairments.
He is coming off a first-place finish at the European Championships in Pontevedra, Spain, on 26 June, and prior to Worlds, he will have a final tune-up at the ITU’s World Championship series Para-Triathlon in London on 7 August.
Boronkay’s Para-Triathlon career really began to gain momentum in 2007, when he finished fourth at his first European Championships in Hamburg, Germany, and when he met his current fiancée, Diana Szorfi, who has supported him 100 percent.
Since then, Boronkay has transitioned from working in a drug rehab centre to working as a physical education teacher in a special needs school.
While he enjoys his current teaching job, it was the time he spent with those in the drug rehab centre that helped ease his transition between sports.
In fact, while it was not a life-threatening case, he used his own story as an example to portray that some things are never over unless you want them to be.
“I find it a great challenge. I always like to face challenges in not just my sports career but in my personal life as well,” Boronkay said of working in the centre. “I tried to be the kind of example that you can always start a new life and improve on your life. Never give up, because there is always a chance somewhere.”
The Hungarian, who is now coached by Peter Balla, has even persuaded Szorfi to take up triathlon, and she’s already competed in several events in the last couple of years.
But she argues she is not up to speed with Boronkay quite yet, so she refuses to train alongside him for the time being.
“I don’t really want to hold him back,” she joked.
Meanwhile, if Boronkay continues to push himself in Para-Triathlon as much as he has done the last few years, he’ll be a sure-bet for Rio in 2016.
“Representing your country at the Olympics or Paralympics is the dream of every athlete,” Boronkay said.