LONDON (Reuters) – Katinka Hosszu, Hungary’s ‘Iron Lady’ of swimming, will be 32 by the time the postponed Tokyo Olympics come around but rivals expecting to see signs of rust by 2021 could still be disappointed.
The triple Olympic gold medallist, who has already said she wants to stretch her career out to the 2024 Paris Games, reckons they should not get their hopes up despite the extra year’s delay.
“I don’t feel old. I know it’s not very common to swim where I am at 30 but I still feel like I learned so much about how I need to prepare and what I need to do and how to race,” she told Reuters in a telephone interview on Friday.
“I have accumulated so much knowledge and experience throughout my years that I think it will be a bigger advantage than this one year, than my body will be ‘older’.
“If I take care of my body, if I do my training and I get ready, I really don’t think it will make a difference that one year.”
Hosszu, whose 31st birthday is in May, lit up the Rio de Janeiro pool where she was crowned the medley queen.
She won gold in the 200m and 400m medley and 100m backstroke, as well as a silver in 200m backstroke. At last year’s world championships in Gwangju, Hosszu came away with two more golds.
In January she was voted the best female swimmer in Europe by national federations and officials of the European governing body LEN.
At that point she was preparing to defend her titles in Tokyo this summer but the new coronavirus pandemic changed everything, with the Games postponed for the first time in Olympic history.
Instead of stepping up her training, now she is at home in Hungary wondering when she will next be racing but determined to stay positive.
“I do feel it’s a good time for me just to stop a little bit and relax and reflect and try out new things. And hopefully I will be better next summer than where I would have been this summer,” she said.
Speaking after the pro ISL series announced a ‘Solidarity Programme’ guaranteeing its swimmers a minimum of $1,500 a month from September through to next July, Hosszu said she was relieved at least that a decision had been made.
And in strange times there were also positives to be registered.
“I think all swimmers are checking on each other, making sure we are all well. We are asking each other how you can train or not train and what can you do and how much we just miss swimming,” said Hosszu.
“I think that might be a positive for later on, just to appreciate what we can do and that we can race.”
“Everyone will be happy to be together again and be able to race. It will be a different atmosphere.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)