By Nick Hope
LEN Digital Editor
Even before the Olympic golds and world records had come her way Katinka Hosszú was being asked if she was ‘made of iron’ after impressing onlookers with her ability to tackle multiple gruelling races during major competitions.
From there her ‘Iron lady’ brand was born and the meaning behind that title only strengthened as her career progressed.
Three Olympic golds, 26 World titles and 35 European crowns are just some of the honours the Hungarian has amassed since making her Games debut at Athens 2004 when she was just 15 years old.
Hosszú currently possesses an unrivalled record of 96 major international medals across Olympics, World and European long course as well as short course championships.
After struggling to find her best form at the postponed Tokyo 2020 Games and Covid-hit preparations denying her the chance to add to her incredible medal haul at the Fina Worlds in late June, she aims to return to the podium in Rome.
Where she has added motivation.
“Reaching 100 international medals is a goal which came after the Olympics because I really wanted to find some internal motivation and get that spark back,” she told LEN TV.
“It’s something that no-one has done before and that really excites me.
“I was fourth at the World championships (in the 400m individual medley) so I didn’t get a medal there and I’m on 96, so I really hope to get some medals at the Europeans!”
The 33-year-old, who will take on the 200m and 400m IM events as well as the 200m butterfly and several relays with Hungary, is returning to the scene of her first world title.
Although already a two-time Olympian by the time Hosszú took to the Stadio del Nuoto water at the 2009 Fina World Championships, it was there that she truly announced herself onto the global stage with her first major gold medal.
“13 years ago was so special and obviously when I come to this pool these memories come back to me and I always think about those times when I was still in college and it was all so exciting,” she recalls.
“A lot has happened since and I’ve been to Rome a lot of times so I know this pool really well, but I love swimming outdoors, the sun, the competition and the atmosphere.”
Despite facing challenges at Budapest 2022 she was encouraged by the home support she received and is expecting the passionate fans of Rome to back swimmers from across the continent during the seven days of pool swimming events.
“I wasn’t sure how they (in Hungary) would respond to me not being on the podium all the time and not winning, but I feel really lucky they appreciated me racing and trying,” says Hosszú, who admitted the support was “overwhelming” at times.
“Here in 2009 the Italian fans were amazing and I think they also love swimming like Hungarians so I’m definitely excited to race.”
Katinka Hosszú’s potential Roma 2022 individual programme:
13 August (day 3) – 400m IM heats / final
15 August (day 5) – 200m IM heats / semi-final
16 August (day 6) – 200m butterfly heats / semi-final; 200m IM final
17 August (day 7) – 200m butterfly final