Fina World Championships 2017

No chinks in Iron Lady's armour, despite pressure

Hungary's Katinka Hosszu celebrating after defending her World Championships women's 400m IM title. The world record holder clinched the IM double on home soil and will be the favourite going into the Tokyo Games.
Hungary's Katinka Hosszu celebrating after defending her World Championships women's 400m IM title. The world record holder clinched the IM double on home soil and will be the favourite going into the Tokyo Games.PHOTO: REUTERS

BUDAPEST • Hungary's "Iron Lady" Katinka Hosszu admitted to feeling the strain after retaining the women's 400m individual medley (IM) title at the World Championships on Sunday to complete the IM double on home soil.

Hosszu clocked a new championships record of 4min 29.33sec with Spain's Mireia Belmonte taking silver at 4:32.17 and Sydney Pickrem of Canada earning bronze at 4:32.88.

This is the third straight World Championships where Hosszu has won both the 200m and 400m IM title, and she is also the world record holder in both events.

However, despite her nickname, Hosszu looked exhausted when she touched the wall and composed herself before celebrating in front of her home crowd at the Duna Arena in Budapest.

She admitted her punishing schedule, racing in the 200m and 400m IMs, 100m and 200m backstroke, the 200m freestyle and 200m butterfly, had taken a toll, but that the crowd carried her.

"It's been a hard week for me," the 28-year-old said. "Of course, the Olympics schedule is different - the 400IM is on the first day there.

 
 
 

"I swam 4.26 in Rio (at the Olympics) and 4.29 here, I thought that I was in even better shape this year, but because it was on the last day, it was difficult to swim a best time.

"In the last 100m, I definitely heard the crowd. They pulled me, I wasn't just swimming for myself, I was swimming for everybody here... I have to take a moment to enjoy the whole experience."

Hosszu said the pressure of performing at home had been an issue - until she won her first gold in the 200m IM final on July 24.

"Honestly, coming into the World Championships, I tried to tell myself I didn't feel pressure and I'm just going to give my best," she said. "But before the 200m IM final, yes, I did feel the pressure. Once I got the gold though, I felt relief and could enjoy racing here."

Hosszu says she is looking forward to defending her 200m and 400m IM Olympic titles in 2020.

"Tokyo is in my mind, I'm very excited about it," she said. "Now I feel free, I have all the titles, I have all the records. I just enjoy swimming, I really love the sport.

"I do feel the motivation in me to keep going, I'd love to challenge for Tokyo as well."

Belmonte, who finished with three World Championships medals, including gold in the 200m butterfly, described Hosszu as "unbeatable" at home.

"Katinka was very fast right from the start, no surprise that she was unbeatable this time as well, since her performance was stable throughout the entire meet," said Belmonte.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2017, with the headline 'No chinks in Iron Lady's armour, despite pressure'. Print Edition | Subscribe