The subject of our next article is Matyikó Marcell, who is not just a young Hungarian swimmer – someone who found his calling in the pool – but also an ambitious and dedicated student. His commitment and diligence set him apart, excelling both in his studies and swimming competitions all while pursuing his dreams in the United States, a land of endless opportunities. Let’s delve into the life of this young talent and discover the challenges he faces while trying to maintain a balance between his two most important areas of life: learning and training.
First of all, please tell us a bit about where you were born and raised and how you got involved in the world of swimming.
I was born and raised in Veszprém, and we only moved within the city once. As a young child, I had a minor issue with my legs, so I couldn’t participate in many land sports. I was four and a half years old when we discovered the Vidra SE in Balatonfűzfő, specifically under the guidance of Kenyeres Tibor, my first swimming coach. Something about swimming really captivated me, and for the next ten years, Tibi Bácsi (Uncle Tibor) became an integral part of my life. I trained in Fűzfő until the beginning of high school, but with the daily commute becoming unmanageable alongside my school commitments, I changed clubs and continued swimming at the Veszprém Swimming Club.
When and why did you decide to move to the United States?
Swimming had never been my ultimate aspiration, even though it enriched my life in various ways, both positively and negatively. However, as high school graduation drew near, I began to sense that there should be a deeper dimension to my journey. After dedicating so many years of relentless effort, I couldn’t simply walk away from it. In the 11th grade, a Hungarian company that helps athletes get into American universities contacted me. We started working together shortly after (resume, exams, emails, visa, etc.), but the opportunity to go to New York came at the very last minute, in the spring of my final high school year, a few months after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Living in New York on a scholarship, attending university, and training with a men’s swim team that was starting in the same year was an offer I couldn’t refuse.
Which university do you attend, and what are you studying there?
I attend Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus. It’s a relatively small university in Downtown Brooklyn, about a 15-minute walk from the East River. Times Square and Central Park are roughly twenty and thirty minutes away by subway, respectively. I’m studying biology at the university, and this is my final year.
What is the biggest challenge for you as a student-athlete?
From years of experience, I can say that finding balance in different areas of life is by far the biggest challenge. Besides school and training, I also work a lot, which further fills my days. Maintaining relationships is also important to me. I try to spend as much time as possible with my girlfriend and friends here. Keeping in touch with family and friends back home is even more challenging. We maintain our connections through social media and try to call each other as often as possible. I often feel that 168 hours a week are not enough, and in the past, I saved time by cutting back on sleep. However, I am aware that this is not healthy, so I’ve been trying to rest more recently. As graduation approaches, one of the other significant challenges is figuring out how and where I want to continue. I want to pursue a master’s degree in Europe, and this involves a lot of research and planning.
It can’t be easy to be a competitive athlete and consistently perform well in training and competitions while also maintaining your studies. How do you balance your academic and athletic commitments? Do you have a strategy that has worked over the years?
I think the key to success is continuous communication with oneself. What feels good and is effective? What can I change if something isn’t going as planned? This is a continuous learning process that not only makes a person more efficient but also allows them to constantly learn new things about themselves. I’m fortunate in that I can learn quickly, which makes it easier to prepare for classes. I often mention that I couldn’t function without my calendar and notes. I try to write down and organize all my tasks so that I always know what to focus on at any given moment. Multitasking is a significant time saver, but I have to be careful not to sacrifice quality (not only in terms of assignments but also in personal relationships). On social media where I’m not solely communicating, I use screen locks to avoid wasting time on unnecessary phone use. Interestingly, this method has worked really well; I don’t even fill the allocated time, although I used these apps much more before. Lastly, perhaps the most important thing is having a support system (family, girlfriend, friends) who are always there for me, people I trust and can rely on in difficult times.
The results show that I’m on the right track. I can count myself as a four-time conference champion and conference record holder, and in the past year, I graduated with a 4.0 GPA. The school and the conference acknowledge my work, and over the years, I’ve received numerous awards. These include the NEC Commissioner’s Honor Roll and Spring Academic Honor Roll (2021-2022); NEC Winter Commissioner’s and Academic honor rolls, Academic All-District from College Sports Communicators, NEC Scholar-Athlete as the conference’s top combined academic/athletic achiever for men’s swimming & diving (2022-2023) (they choose one swimmer from the entire conference each year).
Last, but not least, a few “Rapid Fire Questions”:
Burger or layered potatoes? Honestly, it’s a tough call.
Cheesecake or Somlói galuska? Somlói galuska.
Peanut butter and jelly or pancakes? Pancakes.
Chicken fried steak or Paprikas csirke? Paprikás csirke.
Mac and cheese or Túrós csusza? Mac and Cheese.
Tankcsapda or AC/DC? AC/DC.
Lánchíd or Brooklyn Bridge? Brooklyn Bridge.
Balaton vacation or Florida’s sandy beaches? Balaton vacation.
Soccer or American football? Soccer, for sure. I’m a big FC Barcelona fan.
The “My America” blog series introduces several successful Hungarian athletes in America, click here and get to know them too!