World Triathlon Podcast #86 - Marta Kropko
At just 20 years-old, Marta Kropko has already played a starring role for the Team Hungary Mixed Relay in 2023. Still without a first WTCS start in her career, suddenly a place on the squad for the Paris 2024 Olympics is starting to look like a real possibility.
A debut for the team came in Leeds back in 2022. Just a week after her first ever elite race, she may have been nervous, but Kropko found herself leading the field out of the water before an intense bike segment powered by Britain’s Sophie Coldwell set the kind of pace that would present her a hard but precious lesson about racing at the highest level. Fast forward a year and Kropko was this time starring in the anchor role in Krakow, helping Hungary to European Games bronze and fifth place at the Hamburg World Championships before hitting her first World Cup top 10 in Weihai.
Calling all Kropkos
With two brothers and a sister - all younger - also coming through the ranks, the Kropko name is one that the triathlon world is likely to hear a lot more from in the coming years, just as it was when Marta’s mum and dad raced.
Father Peter was the first Hungarian ever to race in Kona and today there is even a statue of him in Japan, marking his multiple Strongman wins in the country, but the pair’s considerable achievements were barely mentioned at home when the kids were little.
“Our parents didn’t want us to be triathletes,” Marta admits. “They were both triathletes so it may seem like it runs in the family but we didn’t know that was what they did. We went to a few races and fell in love with the sport, but they never told us. People would come up to us and say; ‘Oh my god is that your dad?’ and we didn’t know what they were talking about! His trophies were kept at the back of the garage, so we just never knew. (When she was in Japan) even the coaches there recognised my name and asked about my dad!”
So now Marta finds herself following the same path, looking to write the next chapters of Hungarian triathlon history. There may have been some big races already and some big results both individually and in the relay, but with 2024 set to present its first WTCS opportunity and possibly much, much more, this is still only the beginning for the young woman crowned U23 Aquathlon World Champion in Ibiza in May.
“Next year will only be my second elite year, so I really want to make my first WTCS start and it’s no secret I want to qualify for Paris. That’s the two biggest targets for 2024. I was on the start list for Cagliari this year but I kind of freaked out and thought I wasn’t at that level, so I stuck to the World Cups.”
Lessons learned in Leeds
Thrown into the deep end of the top-tier Mixed Relay Series Leeds in 2022, it was a huge moment for Marta as she took up the relay from Csongor Lehmann, powered the swim and came out first, but the takeaways from that race were far more important than the result.
“The big thing I took from Leeds was the level of the racing. My swim was okay but then there’s such a huge difference in the cycling and the pace was just too fast for me. Leeds was so technical and hilly and on top of that there was huge wind from the side. Sophie Coldwell was smashing it and I was dying and got dropped and had to bike alone. But that meant I knew I had to be stronger, and I’ve never been dropped since. Im really happy to see that improvement.”
Clearly thriving in every challenge that comes her way, the level-headed Kropko rose to the challenge of taking the fourth leg at both the European Games and World Championships, both races that hint at a Hungary team ready to make a big impact at what will be a massive one-off Olympic Qualification Event at the Huatulco World Cup in May and could be the key to her Paris starting berth. Only time will tell, but the determination that already burns away inside Marta Kropko on her journey to the top makes her a hugely exciting prospect over the next decade on the blue carpet.
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08:01 - 24 Nov, 2023