POSTED: Thursday July 19th 2012

London 2012 Features: Kovacs, Modern Pentathlon's Smiling Elf

Kovacs riding and smiling her way to World Championships silver in 2011
Kovacs riding and smiling her way to World Championships silver in 2011

Kovacs has become winning Junior World Championship titles
Kovacs has become winning Junior World Championship titles

Kovacs wants some more gold in London
Kovacs wants some more gold in London

The movie Elf was released in 2003, starring Will Farrell as Buddy the Elf. The flick was a blockbuster holiday feature centered around a smiley, energetic man raised amongst elves in a supposed imaginary North Pole. It became a quick winter classic with limitless quirky quotes.
A popular fan favorite to repeat?

“I just like smiling. Smiling is my favorite.”

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Sarolta Kovacs, the enigmatic elf of modern pentathlon. Smiling, quite literally, is a favorite for this Hungarian phenom.

“Life is too short not to be smiling,” she said.

Kovacs is the kind of person who signs emails with smiley faces and punctuates sentences with multiple exclamation points. While not a native speaker of English, the Hungarian understands how to convey her personality electronically.

The constant display of her pearly whites and her polite attitude are sure reminders of her favorite past time. And with a career like Kovacs's, she has quite a bit to smile about these days.

At just 21 years old, Kovacs has already been crowned a Junior European modern pentathlete champion 4 times and has garnered gold and silver at World Championships. The syrup on her spaghetti last year was earning a spot at the 2012 London Olympics via her finish at the 2011 European Championships.

“I competed several times in England, and I have very good memories there because I gained my quota for the Olympics there,” said Kovacs.

Like a curious Buddy the Elf scouring the city of New York, Kovacs heads into her first Olympics with an eager enthusiasm.

“It will be my first Olympic Games,” Kovacs said. “So I’m very curious to see the whole Olympic atmosphere.”

While Kovacs has sustained a few injuries leading up to London, she's positive she has recovered and trained sufficiently for the Games.

“I am fine for now,” Kovacs said. “I had a minor knee and wrist injury at the start of this year, but fortunately it has not affected my preparations for the Olympics.”

At the Games, Kovacs not only has her sights set on a podium finish, but she also sustains a competitive spirit with her own hometown hero, Zsuzsanna Vörös.

“Zsuzsanna Vörös is my biggest influence because she was the first Olympic champion in our hometown,” Kovacs said.

Vörös, who won gold in modern pentathlon in Athens in 2004, has inspired Kovacs beyond just one Olympic medal, as well.

“I don’t want that Zsuzsanna Vörös to be alone with her title in our city,” Kovacs said coyly. “I want to participate in three Olympic Games.”

Just like when Buddy ventured alone on a journey to the Big Apple with the support of his community, Kovacs hopes her community will be following her in London.

“I hope that my hometown will support me, especially my friends and family, through the TV,” Kovacs said. “But in London, only my coaches will be present.”

Also similar to the giant Buddy, who attempts to convince a cynical city Santa exits, Kovacs stands to be huge in the modern pentathlon family. While still so young with such an accomplished career, Kovacs just has to convince the world to believe in her to make her trilogy Olympic dream come true.

Her journey to do so will begin in London.

We just hope she doesn't follow the four basic elf food groups of candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup in her attempt at Olympic glory. Smiling, however, is a key ingredient.

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Keywords · Modern Pentathlon · London 2012 · Pentathlon · Pentathlete · Olympics · Olympic Games · London · UIPM · IOC · Coubertin · Run · Shoot · Swim · Ride · Fence · Great Britain · gold · champion · Will Farrell · Kovacs · Sarolta · Hungary · Hungarian · Smiling · Junior

Name: Matt Pound
Organization: Union Internationale De Pentathlon Moderne - UIPM
Phone: +377 9777 8555

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