The game of curling has taken Dr Mariann Bardocz-Bencsik, PhD, from Budapest all over the world.
Over the past two months, the media officer with the World Curling Federation has been accumulating the air miles as of late.
Prior to arriving in Prince George for the world women’s curling championship, she spent six weeks in Beijing for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic games.
“After my stint in Beijing, I spent two nights at home in Budapest and then came here. Obviously, Beijing was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I hope the next Olympics (in 2026) is going to be more normal than what it was. But honestly, the International Olympic Committee and the local organizers did their best to provide a safe environment for everyone involved.”
“It’s been a grind.”
What makes her more unique is that she’s from Hungary – a country that has 100 registered players.
Bardocz-Bencsik has been working alongside the World Curling Federation media team since 2014.
MEET OUR EXPERTS: Mariann Bardocz-Bencsik is a passionate sports professional, based in Budapest, Hungary.
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While serving as a press officer for the Hungarian Curling Federation, she stumbled upon the WCF’s former Media Assistance Program.
This came off the heels of the Hungarian Mixed Doubles pair of Zsolt Kiss and Dorottya Palansca claiming the gold medal with a 10-1 record at the 2013 World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship.
Hungary defeated Sweden 8-7 in the final as the tournament was hosted in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
The tournament also featured other notable champion curlers including Bruce Mouat (Scotland) along with 2022 Olympic Mixed Doubles silver medalists Kristen Skaslien and Magnus Nedregotten of Norway.
“Hungarian media just got really interested in that after they had won the gold medal so that is how I joined this program and the first couple of events were the Mixed Doubles and European World Championships where the Hungarians have been competing in the B division,” added Bardocz-Bencsik.
Hungary only has one dedicated curling facility, which was built in 2005, and is called the Kamaraerdei Curling Club, consisting of just two sheets of ice.
“It is on the edge of our capital city Budapest and this is where everybody curls including our two-time world champion mixed-doubles team. We have come and try curling sessions, wheelchair sessions and we have roughly 100 registered active players in Hungary.”
Bardocz-Bencsik added when she sees non-traditional curling countries like Turkey come over and compete at the women’s worlds, it gives her hope that one day Hungary will make it back to the main pool as well.
“Normally how it works at the European level is how you qualify for the worlds is based on that you can get a spot in the A Division and if you are lucky enough you can stay there. After a couple of years, you can then qualify for the worlds.”
“Right now, the Hungarian team has been bouncing back and forth between the A and B divisions for quite some years now but we are really hopeful in the coming years they can stay in the A division and qualify much like Turkey or Norway did,” added Bardocz-Bencsik.
Outside of her love for curling, Bardocz-Bencsik’s academic resume is just as impressive. She graduated from the PhD program of the University of Physical Education in Hungary last year.
Her research areas often include the role of sport in international development and high-profile athletes’ involvement in development work.
“It’s been quite some time for me to actually focus on research while I was doing some other jobs but finally I finished my studies and now I am like a part-time researcher especially since I am focusing my full-time work as a media team member.”
One of her fondest curling memories was back in 2015 during the World Mixed Doubles Championship in Sochi, Russia, where the Hungarian team won its second world title, which consisted of the duo of Kiss and Palancsa.
“These guys have been my very close friends and it was just amazing to watch them win a second world title that year. And of course, another highlight was the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. I’ve been involved in sports as a researcher, volunteer, student and have held other types of jobs within sports since 2003.”
“To cap it off with participation in the Olympic games was really, really special.”
Bardocz-Bencsik is a curler herself and first took up the sport after spending several years as a dancer.
She has competed in the Hungarian national championship in both the women’s and mixed categories on several occasions but the past two or three seasons haven’t been quite as active due to the pandemic.
The sporting landscape in Hungary mostly consists of water polo and other summer Olympic sports.
“We are among the top 15 nations in the world in terms of Olympics medals per capita only for the summer games. Our best sports are water polo, kayak/canoeing, and swimming but in terms of team sports, we enjoy handball and soccer.
“Our winter sports are developing as our first ever Winter Olympic gold medal came in Pyeongchang with the short track men’s speed skating and one person from that team won an Olympic gold in an individual race and I was lucky enough to witness that myself,” she added.
Wherever Bardocz-Bencsik’s journey takes her, one thing is for certain, she is Hungary for more success.