Kansas State has a long tradition of success at the Olympics, dating all the way back to 1920. 24 Wildcats have represented their countries at the Olympics so far, winning eight medals in total. This year, seven current and former Kansas State track and field athletes have qualified for the 2016 Games in Rio. Over the next week, we'll introduce you to each of these Wildcats so you can root for them when they take the field.
The success of Kansas State athletes in field events is practically a foregone conclusion, but the same can’t be said for the track. Wildcats of the past didn’t exactly light the track on fire, and this was especially true a few years ago, when Cliff Rovelto famously said:
We have quality athletes, but also several events where we are not up to par, or, we have events where we lack in depth.
The upshot is that you, intrepid Kansas State fan, can’t be faulted for not knowing or remembering Balazs Baji, a 110m hurdles specialist from Hungary. He only competed in purple for one year, 2010, and his best collegiate performance that year was a fifth place finish at the Big 12 Championships. He is tied for fourth at Kansas State all-time.
Since then, Baji has gone from strength to strength in European competition. In 2011, he won a silver medal at the European U23 Championships, and followed that up with a fourth place finish in the European Indoor Championships in 2012 and a similar finish at the European Outdoor Championships in 2014. Finally, earlier in 2016, Baji had his best finish ever at the European Championships, winning a silver medal with a time of 13.28, a new Hungarian record and just 0.03 seconds off the winning mark in the race.
The Rio Games are Baji’s second Olympics. He’s not expected to medal in Rio, but will almost certainly improve on his 35th place finish from the 2012 London Olympics. He’s also not lacking for confidence, having recently beat gold medal favorite Omar McLeod in a 110m hurdles race in Hungary (video link; Hungarian commentary).
Baji will hit the track for the 110m hurdles heats on August 15th at 8:40 PM.