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Katinka Hosszú “I always try to set high goals and I achieve a lot of things during the journey”

Triple Olympic gold medalist and one of Hungary’s best athletes Katinka Hosszú is in Singapore to race in the FINA World Swimming Championships. Before the start, she found time to sit for an interview with CEEC and to share with our readers: how she handles success, what her goals are and why we should visit her home country – Hungary.

CEEC: Katinka, you are a three-time Olympic champion and a nine-time long-course world champion. You’re the first swimmer to hold world record in all five individual medley events at the same time. You were the FINA swimmer of the year in 2014, 2015, 2016 & 2018. After all of these achievements and being such an important figure for Hungarian sport, what’s next?

Katinka Hosszú: Honestly, for me even to hear the numbers still sounds crazy. I don’t really sit down and think about it and I do that on purpose. I think I will think about it once I’m done swimming and sit down and count everything I have done.  I am always looking forward and I always have something else to achieve and there is always the next thing. I won titles in Hangzhou and I know that that was just the start for me for the Olympics. So yes, I’m really excited there were some records I was able to break with those titles, but that was not the main goal for me. I always try to set such high goals for me that I achieve a lot of things during that journey. It always changes what I’m going for and as of right now I am just enjoying the time I have left in swimming. I don’t want to think “Oh my god I am going to stop swimming really soon” but I know it is coming to an end and I definitely have a lot less time in the sport that I had before because I have been swimming for 25 years and I will not be swimming for another 25. So right now, I’m really enjoying everything I do. I love racing and obviously representing my country and going to my 5th Olympic games is really a special thing and that is what is really motivating for me.

CEEC: That brings us to the next question, you achieved so much, how do you stay motivated to stay on top? And with all of the buzz and noise from social media nowadays, how do you switch off and stay focused?

KH: It’s crazy because for me that never has been too hard, because for me it’s still seems surreal that I am an Olympic champion. So I really try not to think too much about it. Going down to the pool and being around the swimmers and the swimming community is my home. I remember how I felt when I was 6 years old and started racing. And it feels the same now. For me those are the things I consciously think about. I know why I am in the pool and what I try to do. So, for myself this doesn’t change much. But yes, my surrounding and my image and my media platforms and everything has changed a lot since then. But I feel very similar and so passionate about swimming. So that never changes for me throughout this journey.

CEEC: In the next couple of days for the FINA and for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, what can we expect?

KH: Expect. I love that word.  It’s sports so anything can happen, that’s why we like it. And we are all humans. What I can promise is that I will do my very best every single day to do the best I can in Tokyo. And that’s my goal – to walk away from the Olympics and say, “That’s all I had”.  And if that’s an 8th place of each or the 1st place of each or the world record, it’s going to be the same feeling – that I couldn’t have done more.  That’s what I always try to shoot for. The only thing I can control is what I do and how much work I put in. I can’t control anybody else around me and what they are going to do. So that’s what I am going to keep focusing on and hopefully it will be enough for something great.

CEEC: You are nicknamed “Iron Lady”. Where does it come from and what does it mean to you?

KH: I got this nickname in China from the Chinese media in 2012 during the world cup series. I was able to beat one of the Chinese Olympic Champions coming off from London. I just won couple of races before, but I just got up and raced. Later they asked me “What am I made out of to be able to beat the Chinese hero?”. I didn’t know what to say, so someone said “Are you made out of iron? And I said, “Yeah I am made out of iron, obviously” and then the next day there was an article with the title “Hungary’s Iron lady”.  I didn’t think much of it then, but the international media started using it. I think it is probably because it is much easier to remember than my name, for foreigners not for Hungarians. After a while it was used everywhere, even in the swimming sometimes they introduced me as “Katinka – Iron Lady”. Then I actually realized that is something that can help me have an alter ego in the pool. I used to be really shy and not as confident as I am today. That helped me to put on an iron lady mask and be someone who just goes and is really though and believes that she is tougher than anyone else in the world. That’s the story of Iron Lady.

CEEC: You are Hungarian, tell us and our Singaporean readers why should people go to Hungary and what should they do there?

KH: Hungary is beautiful. I can talk about it, but you must go and see for yourself. You need to see Budapest with the river Danube going across Buda and Pest and we have beautiful bridges, as well. I think our Parliament is the most beautiful in the world. And I’m not trying to polish Hungary.  I live in Buda and when I train I have to go to Pest. So every time I drive, I am amazed how beautiful Budapest is. You must go and see for yourself. And we have lake Balaton, which is something completely different. It is more the countryside, the wine tasting and just enjoying the views, as well as the lake itself.  I definitely suggest you go to Hungary.

CEEC: We know you are a huge basketball fan, so my last question is my favorite. Could you tell us what do you think would happen at the opening match up for the new season between the LA Lakers vs. LA Clippers? Given the recent player movement it will be an interesting game. 

KH: I think it is going to be really though for the Lakers now. And my heart is breaking because obviously I m a huge LeBron fan. I have been a bandwagoner the whole time as I have been a Cavs fan, a Miami Heat fan and a Lakers fan now. And I lived in LA and I wish he was in LA when I was there but now with everything going on, they will have a really tough time. Being a Laker’s fan, I will say Lakers, but who is going to win at the end, I am not so sure.

Photo credit to Andy Chua, SSA