Husker gymnast balances classes, Olympics training

· 6 min read

Husker gymnast balances classes, Olympics training

A sophomore business administration major, Csenge Bácskay balances her time in the classroom and the gym as she gets ready to compete in the Summer Olympics in Paris.
A sophomore business administration major, Csenge Bácskay balances her time in the classroom and the gym as she gets ready to compete in the Summer Olympics in Paris.

Husker gymnast Csenge Bácskay of Budapest, Hungary, looks forward to competing in the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, representing her home country. The sophomore business administration major, who is spending quality time in the gym in preparation, also found a new academic interest through her courses at the College of Business — economics.

“Back in Hungary, we didn’t have economics or accounting in high school, so it was a whole new thing for me. At first, I had no idea what was going on, but as I learned, I found out I really like economics,” said Bácskay, who has taken two economics courses at the College of Business.

The business administration major allows students to explore different business disciplines, like economics, and create a personalized degree. Through a class taught by Tammie Fischer, lecturer, Bácskay quickly caught on to the economics way of thinking, studying how people, households, businesses and governments make choices under scarcity.

“Csenge brought positive energy to my class and was always engaged in our class activities and discussions and volunteered for simulations or silly skits,” Fischer said. “I admire how she was able to balance — pun intended — her demanding athletic and academic schedules, achieving a high level of success in both.”

Bácskay said she first learned about the University of Nebraska–Lincoln while competing in Europe. A video shared on social media caught her attention.

“I was scrolling through Instagram and a Nebraska video popped up. I got interested as I’d never been to the U.S. before. I knew how to speak English, so I emailed a couple universities, and Nebraska was my favorite,” she said. “Talking with (gymnastics) Coaches Heather Brink and Brian Amato, I felt an immediate connection. That’s why I chose Nebraska.”

Bácskay competed in four European championships before coming to Nebraska so she was familiar with the international side of gymnastics. In 2021, she captured the national vault title for Hungary after being named national floor champion in 2018.

“Csenge and Emma Spence (a Canadian gymnast who attended Nebraska) competed against each other in international competitions and formed a friendship,” Brink said. “Throughout the time talking with Csenge via Zoom, it was evident she had dreams of pursuing the opportunity to continue to do her sport and receive an education, and her parents completely supported her in doing so.”

Knowing there might be some challenges, they discussed her longtime goal of qualifying for the Olympics for Hungary.

“Balancing elite gymnastics, NCAA gymnastics and her academics is always something we strive to support her in with open communication and a trusting relationship. We believe NCAA gymnastics provides her the opportunity to enjoy the sport while fine-tuning her routines, and the elite side of the sport has prepared her to handle and compete in some high-pressure situations,” Brink said. “Csenge has shown nothing but gratitude for the opportunity. Her growth throughout the past year, both as a gymnast and a person, has been tremendous. We are proud of her and excited for her, and I know it’s just the beginning of her journey as a Husker.”

Bácskay enjoyed learning in her economics courses how people, households, businesses and governments make choices under scarcity.
College of Business
Bácskay enjoyed learning in her economics courses how people, households, businesses and governments make choices under scarcity.

As a freshman at Nebraska, Bácskay recorded her personal best in beam (9.8) and bars (9.7), as well as a recorded a season-best vault (9.8). So far during her sophomore season, she has already set new personal bests in floor (9.95) and bars (9.85) at Illinois and vault (9.825) at the Sprouts Farmers Market Collegiate Quad event.

She earned her spot in the 2024 Olympics when she competed in the 2023 Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, during the off-season. Initially, she didn’t qualify for the final competition but found out an hour before finals that two competitors were injured, so she had another chance to compete. Setting her mind to make the most of the opportunity, she qualified for the Olympics with an average score of 13.266.

“I was so happy. I worked so hard for that from such a young age,” said Bácskay, who started gymnastics at the age of three and worked with a professional coach by the time she was eight.

“I immediately fell in love with gymnastics and the gym. Obviously, a 3-year-old girl isn’t thinking about going to the Olympics, but my mom (Barbara Bácskayné Abonyi) always told me, ‘You’re going to go to the Olympics.’ and I would say, ‘Okay, fine.’ Then it happened, which is crazy.”

Homeschooled around two to three hour morning practices and three to four hour afternoon practices in Hungary, she had private teachers for math, chemistry, physics and languages.

“All the other subjects my mom taught me,” said Bácskay, who says keeping busy runs in the family. “I have a younger sister, Kincso, who is 14 and a fencer, and a younger brother, Zsomber, who is 18 and does judo. My dad, Zsolt Bácskay, teaches judo, and both my parents are runners.”

Though not having her family close can be difficult at times, Bácskay stays focused on her career and athletic goals. She wakes up most days at 6:30 a.m. to lift weights prior to attending classes.

“I’m taking an international approach in my business administration major as I’m not sure yet where I will live after graduation,” she said. “I’m focused on doing the basic business things in an international way. I also go to study hours in Memorial Stadium, even if I don’t have homework, as it’s just good to be around my friends.”

Bácskay also continues to enjoy competing and the many hours she puts in at the place where she always feels at home — the gym.

“Practice is my favorite three hours of the day because I get to do gymnastics. It’s the time when I just kind of forget about any problems and everything,” Bácskay said. “When I go to the gym sad or frustrated, I just focus on gymnastics and leave the gym feeling so much happier.”

Bácskay will compete in the Olympics during the women’s vault qualifications on July 28, with the events running Aug. 3-5.

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