50km race walk world champion, IAAF World Athlete of the Year nominee and, it turns out, a budding hack; Slovakian superstar and former journalism student Matej Toth tells us about his passion for the written word.

Always learning

“I always liked to read sports newspapers and opinion pieces and that is still the case. I was always keen on a career in journalism, and I studied journalism for five years from 2001 to 2006 in my home town of Nitra at the University of Constantine the Philosopher. It is great to put my ideas on paper. I like to write about everything and sometimes I find it is easier than talking.

“I have written mainly about race walking but sometimes about other sports. In fact, when I have written articles for my club magazine (DUKLA) I have even written an article on body building! I don’t think I am any expert on writing yet. I am still learning. I tend to like journalists who have their own opinion, but I dislike confrontation, so the art is to write your own ideas with refinement and diplomacy.”

Why so serious?

“I tend to prefer reading the more serious newspapers, which are informative on politics, economics and sports. For me, I am not too sure which publication I would work for, but journalists should write what they know best about and for me that is race walking, athletics and other sports topics. Maybe one day I could edit my own magazine called something like Week in the World!

“Of course, I have had much written about my race walking career, and one of one the funniest was a few weeks ago at a training camp in Rio de Janeiro. One of our biggest sports newspapers here in Slovakia wrote ‘world champion escapes from Rio on red lights’. This was because we were driving around some of the dangerous places in Rio and the taxi driver wouldn’t stop on a red light.”

Toth the subject

“I am lucky in that I have had many good articles written about me. One that recently stood out was a three-page article in a magazine about the relationship with my family. This allowed me to explain how important a role my family plays in my performances and success. I always appreciate a question asked by a journalist that says ‘who do you thank for you your success?’

“I’ve also had some crazy questions thrown at me, but the one I always smile at is why I went to the toilet during my 50km race in Beijing.”

Dream team

“If I was to edit my only magazine from the athletics world I would recruit only race walkers! For writing and sub-editing I would ask Canadian Evan Dunfee. He has a very interesting blog, good opinions and I like reading his text. My photographer would be Polish race walker Rafal Augustyn. He is always travelling with a big mirror lens camera and takes nice pictures.”

Divine question

“If I could interview anyone from outside of the sport it would be Pope Francis. He has clever opinions, but is also modest and kind. However, it must also be very hard being one of the most well known people in the world, so it would make a very interesting interview. Finally, if I could ask Usain Bolt one question it would be: ‘Do you ever have – even for a short time – a normal life like before you were famous?’”

Matej Toth is one of the nine male nominees for the IAAF World Athlete of the Year award.