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Nov 26 - Dec 8, 2019
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The Iron Lady who is in love with gold

Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu is Doha’s sweetheart in the swimming pool, having notched plenty of successes here.
Hungarian Katinka Hosszu Is Preparing To Set The Hamad Aquatic Centre
Hungarian Katinka Hosszu is preparing to set the Hamad Aquatic Centre pool on fire with her performances. IQ Photo

Katinka Hosszu is known as the ‘Iron Lady’ of swimming. It is not a title the Hungarian takes lightly.

Housszu, who is in Doha for the FINA World Cup, won the 200M butterfly title at the Kazan leg of the series last week. While the win itself was largely expected, what made it extraordinary was that it was her 300th gold medal on the circuit. But even she was unaware of it at the time.

“It was crazy when someone told me I’d won 300 gold medals because personally, I never keep track of it. I was taken by surprise about all the racing I’ve done over the years,” she told Inside Qatar.

It is not the repetitive act of winning that has made Hosszu oblivious to her rising medal count.

“I don’t count my medals because I always look ahead. I’m not finished yet and have several years of swimming left in me. Back home, I store all my medals safely in buckets. Maybe, once I’m retired, I’ll organise an exhibition to display them all,” she said with a laugh, after a 100-minute training session at the Hamad Aquatic Complex.

Hosszu, who makes it a point to give fans the flowers and stuffed toys she receives during medal ceremonies, said it felt good to be back in Doha.

“It’s always good to be back in Doha because the city holds many fond memories for me. I broke four world records during the 2014 FINA Short Course World Championships here. I like the pool and the facilities as well as the warm weather. I’m in love with it,” she said.

But her favourite city is unlikely to present her something which she has not held since 2016 — the FINA World Cup’s best female swimmer overall title. Australian Cate Campbell currently leads the rankings with 300 points while Hosszu is second on 276. The Hungarian seems to have come to terms with it.

“I’m not sure I’ll be able to catch Cate in Doha, unless she swims extraordinarily badly, which is impossible. But finishing second is also okay. Being able to do it at my age is an achievement in itself,” said the 30-year-old.

If ever Hosszu builds a medal cabinet, she is likely to run out of space on the wall to house it. In addition to her 300 gold medals in World Cups, she also owns three Olympic golds, nine long course and 17 short course world titles.

To remain at the top for such a long time takes extraordinary dedication and patience. After having made winning a habit, how does she keep herself motivated?

“I love swimming and racing, and it’s always been a part of my life. I’ve had swim friends from age 10, who’s travelled the world with me. I love the lifestyle associated with the sport. I know my time is slowly winding down, but I’ll never be far away from a swimming pool,” she said.

Even as she continues to set swimming pools on fire with her performances, Hosszu has started the gradual evolution into life after competitive sport.

A brand ambassador for the recently launched International Swimming League (ISL), she also owns one of the European teams — Iron Swim Budapest — in the league and is its captain. She recently organised an ISL race at home, an experience she said opened her to new possibilities.

“Being a captain and team owner came naturally to me. It’s been an amazing experience. I’ve always spoken about making swimming more professional and getting non-traditional fans from outside the sport to give it a try. The ISL seeks to do this, and I’m deeply invested in the idea,” she said.

“Being a team’s captain and the owner was a completely different ballgame. I had to organise the Budapest race, and it opened my eyes to a whole lot of things other than just swimming. It motivated me to see the bigger picture. I cherish the experience,” added Hosszu.

The world governing body of swimming, FINA, in a bid to maintain its control on the sport, has been on the warpath with ISL. Hosszu felt the new league would only prove beneficial for the game in the long run.

“The ISL is beneficial because it brings new fans into the sport. Once they get hooked to swimming, they’ll start following FINA events closely. Eventually, it’ll help us grow further. We can all co-exist,” she said.