Erika Huszár – New Goals Every Day

Erika Huszár – New Goals Every Day

LIQ_Mag_Nov2013_CoverThis article first appeared in the November 2013 issue of Life in Québec Magazine.
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Erika Huszár – New Goals Every Day

By Jason Enlow

When the Club de patinage de vitesse de Ste-Foy (Ste-Foy Speed Skating Club) needed a head coach, they turned to Hungarian Erika Huszár, a recently retired Olympic speed skater, a European inline speed skating champion and a big gun in the history of short track speed skating in Hungary.

Erika_Huszar_1Short track is a division of speed skating that has been an official Olympic sport since 1992. Races are skated counter clockwise on an oval track measuring 111.12 metres. Skaters wear protective gear and tight-fitting spandex suits. The races are fast and exciting.

Huszár was born in 1983 in Jászberény, a small town 80 km east of Budapest. She grew up in a big sports family; her grandfather, parents, two sisters and twin brother all participated in sports. “It was natural to start training because everyone else in the family did”. Huszár started gymnastics at the age of four, but after six years, she switched to inline speed skating and short track speed skating. She was 14 when she participated in her first World Junior Championships in St. Louis. Eight years and many medals later, she took part in the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin where she finished 4th in the 1,500m race.

Erika_Huszar_2It was the first time since 1980 that a Hungarian athlete placed in the top six in a winter Olympics. Huszár also competed in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics where she placed 5th in the 3,000m relay race and 6th in the 1,500m.

As the best Hungarian athlete at the Olymipics, Huszár was chosen to carry the Hungarian flag for the closing ceremonies in both 2006 and 2010, a great honour for her.

The Olympics were an experience of a lifetime for Huszár who says, “I never had to compete in such a big arena with so many people watching. It was very stressful and at the same time very exciting to be in the same Olympic village with the best athletes in the world.”

After 16 years of training, usually 13 times a week, Huszár found that she needed a change. She wanted to continue skating after Vancouver but she was looking for a different adventure. She considered moving to Russia with her boyfriend, hockey player András Sájevics, to train with the Russian national team and represent Hungary at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. Huszár says that, “It is a common situation in professional sports today that athletes train abroad, but still keep their original citizenship.” Eventually, the Russian team told her it would not be possible because they do not allow foreign skaters on the ice with the national team.

Still wanting a new experience, and hearing good things about the home of Bonhomme Carnaval, Huszár and Sájevics decided to try Quebec City.

Erika_Huszar_3When Huszár landed here in 2010 the only French she knew consisted of “oui” and “non”.  She admits that back then, “French just hurt my ears.” She started skating with the Club de patinage de vitesse de Québec (CPVQ) and although she was nervous, it did not take long for people to warm to her. “I was a good skater, it didn’t matter what country I was from,” says Huszár. “I’ve never found anyone here to be unfriendly, probably because of sports.” The language barrier did make it difficult for her to rent an apartment or buy a car. Her new Quebec friends from the club vouched for her and her boyfriend and helped get them everything they needed.

Huszár went back home at the end of 2010 to compete in the European Championships, where she finished 3rd in the 1,500m and 2nd in the relay. She also competed at the 2011 Winter Universiade short track speed skating competition. Soon after this, Huszár received an offer from Le Club de patinage de vitesse de Ste-Foy to become their head coach. It was time to make some difficult decisions.

Huszár decided to answer the call and she came prepared with a degree in sports science from Semmelweis University in Budapest. At first, she had to give her students instructions in English but that was not working out so well. Huszár recalls, “If I wanted to do something here, I knew I would have to learn French.”A parent suggested she try a Francisation course offered at a local adult education establishment. “It’s a good school that helps people with their French skills,” says Huszár who spends every morning learning French and coaching the rest of the day. “People tell me I’ve really improved,” she says, “even though the kids correct me sometimes.”

LiQ_Mag_Abonnez-vousNow she oversees all 200 skaters and coaches 80 people from ages 8 to 22 every week, from beginners to elite. Her goal has always been to “Teach my students to skate really well and hope that one time in the Olympics I will be able to see a skater of mine”. Erika Huszár has set many goals for herself but she adds, “I have new goals to reach every day. I would never be able to sit back and feel satisfied instead of setting another goal from time to time.” Huszár is not the only former Olympian at the Club de patinage de vitesse de Ste-Foy, there have been 15 athletes including club president Marie-Pierre Lamarche, who has been with the club since 1969.

Most of Huszár’s friends are French-speaking and she feels that this has helped her to learn quickly. Huszár explained that learning a language is always a big deal, because Hungarian is not like any other language. In Hungary, everybody has to have a second language, usually English or German, before receiving a diploma.

Both Huszár and her boyfriend have busy schedules. She is either coaching or studying and Sájevics is working up north as a goaltending instructor for the Nunavik Youth Hockey Development Program run by former NHL player and Olympian Joé Juneau.

They both go back to visit Hungary during the summer months. Even though her family hopes that she will not be here forever, both Huszár and Sájevics are enjoying their life in Québec. “People from Quebec have more of a European mentality compared to the U.S. and English Canada. That’s the big difference.” And when they crave a taste of home, they are able to find some of their favorite foods at an eastern European supermarket in the city.

Huszár is impressed that so many Quebec City kids play or participate in sports. She says that the attitude here seems to be that, “It’s not important what sport, as long as they’re doing something,” and in Erika’s opinion, that’s great.

Lâche pas la patate, Erika!

About Author

Jason Enlow

Jason Enlow is a Special Education Technician at an English elementary school. He was born in Montreal, Quebec and grew up in Burlington, Ontario. Jason studied Radio and Television at Ryerson University in Toronto. His previous employers include CityTV, CBC, The Weather Network, and Global Television. He’s worked as a DJ, camera operator, musician, teacher, translator and video game content designer. Jason moved to Quebec City in 1997 where he still lives today with his wife and three sons.

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