BUDAPEST: Katinka Hosszu said defending her women’s 200m individual medley title in front of her home crowd at the world aquatics championships on Monday was an “unforgettable experience”.
Hosszu clocked 2min 07.00sec to retain the gold medal with Japan’s Yui Ohashi in silver at 0.91sec and Madisyn Cox of the United States earning bronze, 2.71sec behind.
Each of Hosszu’s strokes in the final 50 metres was met with a deafening roar from the Budapest crowd.
“It’s hard to put into words what it means, it feels like my very first win,” she said after her victory on home soil.
“I have been training in this pool, trying to imagine the crowd and prepare for it, but I don’t think you can ever be ready.
“It was great motivation and it was just crazy.
“It was really amazing how everyone was supporting me in red, white and green, when I got out of the pool, I couldn’t believe it.”
Verge of tears
Fireworks were set off next to the podium as Hosszu collected the sixth world title of her career.
The crowd sang along with the Hungarian national anthem ‘Himnusz’ as Hosszu struggled to keep her emotions in check.
“Thank you for the experience, it was unforgettable — I almost cried,” admitted Hungary’s “Iron Lady”.
Hosszu said the win in Budapest meant as much to her as capturing Olympic gold medals at the Rio de Janeiro Games last year.
She left Brazil with a treble of 200m medley, 400m medley and 100m backstroke golds.
“It’s quite a difficult feeling, because I was dreaming of being Olympic champion,” she said.
“But it was amazing to swim here in front of the Hungarian fans, so this worlds medal means a lot to me.”
Hosszu explained why she opted to drop out of the 100m backstroke semi-finals at the worlds, which fell just before the 200m IM final.
“I could have swum the 100m backstroke, but I didn’t want to risk the 200m IM final, because the back semis were before,” she said.
“I am really happy with my decision and I am looking forward to racing tomorrow in the 200m freestyle heats.”
Iron business lady
The 28-year-old is the first woman to win three gold medals in the event at world championships, following her successes at Barcelona in 2013 and Kazan two years later.
Hosszu was well short of her world record of 2:06.12, set in Kazan two years ago, but is the favourite to also defend her 400m medley world title on Sunday.
She is a champion in the pool and a businesswomen on dry land, as her “Iron Lady” brand of swimwear goes from strength to strength.
“I am happy at the way the Iron Lady brand is going, when we started building it five years ago I never thought it would get this far,” she said.
“I love having my company, they were cheering for me in the stands with a sign saying ‘Swim, Boss, Swim!’ in Hungarian.
“It’s nice to get away from the swimming pool to do something else, I hope we keep growing.”