Balazs Baji will never forget 2017. Actually, that should be Dr Balazs Baji will never forget 2017.
A bronze medal in the 110m hurdles at last week’s World Championships in London added to an amazing few months in his life after he graduated from university as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in February.
“I have started to work in the university in the small animal department,” said the 28-year-old, who picked up Hungary’s first ever track medal in World Championships history. “I try to squeeze in everything.”
What takes priority?
“For now it is running, sport is a major thing in my life, especially for Tokyo,” he added. “Veterinary is long term for me.”
As he chats, long term is a good phrase to use because the bronze medal is the culmination of a decade of work which led to his brilliant performance in the London Stadium.
But with his bronze was further illustration of the strength of Hungarian athletics as he made the podium just 48 hours before his teammate, clubmate and great friend Anita Marton won the seventh major medal of her career with silver in the shot put.
Marton battled her way through the rain last Wednesday to win her first world outdoor medal with silver with 19.49m, not far behind China’s Gong Lijiao with 19.94m. Nobody could have been more proud than Baji as Marton added this medal to her Olympic bronze from Rio last summer.
“We are teammates from a small city, Bekescsaba, where we compete for the athletics club,” he said. “We have made so much progress in the past couple of years, especially Anita. She has won a medal in every major championship. She is amazing and I am so grateful that I can finally join her.
“We have been teammates for nine years. We are friends outside of the track, we have a good friendship and we support each other however we can.”
Baji’s first international event was the European U20 Championships in Hengelo in 2007. He was the silver medallist at the European U23 Championships in Ostrava in 2011 and a year ago he was second at the European Championships in Amsterdam.
In the past, Baji had never made a global outdoor final but now he is the third best in the world after his superb run from lane five in London, finishing in 13.28 as Jamaican Omar McLeod won gold (13.04) and Sergey Shubenkov (13.14) won silver.
“I had huge expectations of myself and after my really good season, everybody else had really huge expectations of me,” said Baji. “I showed my best in the final. I was dreaming about it.
“I came here firstly to make the final and my goals were that if I am in the final, I really want to run the perfect race. And if that happens, anything else can happen.
“My teammates had a bottle of champagne for me when I got back and we had a small celebration, and no-one was able to sleep. It has been a great championships for Hungary.”
Did you know that Balazs Baji claimed Hungary's first ever track medal in World Champs history with bronze in the 110m hurdles last night? pic.twitter.com/w28LXFBGBp
— European Athletics (@EuroAthletics) August 8, 2017
But his pursuit of medals this summer is not over yet.
This weekend, the 2017 Summer Universiade start in Taipei, Taiwan, and he is determined to make the podium again.
“This will be my last chance to race in the University Games, and as I graduated this February, it is important for me to get one more medal this season,” he said. “I am still in really good shape, I really want to run again. I just want to enjoy the moment, enjoy the races.
“I am really tired but hopefully when I get home I will have time to rest.”