RIO DE JANEIRO: While Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky hog the headlines in the Rio Olympics competition pool, Katinka Hosszu is working her way toward a slice of Olympic swimming history herself.
Hungary’s “Iron Lady” of swimming is three-quarters of the way toward a record-equalling fourth individual swimming gold, snaring number three on Tuesday night in the 200m individual medley.
She opened her campaign with a world record-shattering triumph in the 400m IM — grabbing her first Olympic medal and expunging the memory of a 2012 London campaign in which she said she succumbed to confidence-sapping nerves.
“Going into London I was so nervous about what would happen if I lost and didn’t get a medal,” said Hosszu, whose fortunes have changed since her husband Shane Tusup also became her coach in 2013.
She set the 200m medley world record in winning world championships gold in Russia last year, one of five long course world titles she’s earned since 2009.
Hosszu and Tusup met when both were swimming at the University of Southern California, and Tusup’s intense, emotional reactions to Hosszu’s races have become an internet sensation, with NBC’s official Olympics Twitter account urging women to ‘find someone who loves you the way Katinka Hosszu’s husband loves her’.
The couple have closed ranks, however, when it comes to criticism of Tusup’s motivational methods in training, with some swimming insiders suggesting to the New York Times that they constituted abuse.
Hosszu was having none of it — snubbing the reporter who wrote the story in a post-200 medley press conference as she aimed a steely look at her husband in the back of the room.
Her response has been equally defiant in the face of some not-so-veiled suggestions that her improvement since London — and her ability to maintain gruelling individual meet schedules — are not due solely to hard work.
Hosszu sued “Swimming World” in an Arizona court last year after the magazine published an opinion piece in which former Canadian swimmer Casey Barrett asked: “Are Katinka Hosszu’s performances being aided?”
– ‘Just crazy’ –
Hosszu herself acknowledged that her 400m medley world record of 4min 26.36sec — slicing 2.07sec off the mark set by China’s Ye Shiwen in London four years ago — was “crazy”.
“It’s just crazy that I’ve been able to swim two seconds faster than anyone ever, ever did,” she said, but added: “For the past four years I have been preparing to race. I have trained the whole four years without taking off more than a day.
“It has been a tough four years, but every year I feel I have been making (a) huge step forwards. Always just building on the past year. And it worked.”
With all those London nerves behind her, Hosszu is ready to seize her chance to match East Germany’s Kristin Otto’s 1988 feat of winning four individual golds in a single Games.
“This is what we have prepared for the past four years,” she said. “Even if I don’t have my best day I can touch the wall first.”