Epic Swims: How Maya DiRado Defeated Katinka Hosszu at the 2016 Olympics

Heading into the women’s 200 back final at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Hungarian Katinka Hosszu had already collected 3 individual gold medals at the Games (100 BK, 200/400 IM). Hosszu was looking to sweep both backstroke events after her dominant IM sweep. Right behind her in the final was another BK/IM specialist, Maya DiRado. The American had already taken silver in the 400 IM and bronze in the 200 IM, as well as adding a gold medal in the 800 free relay. However, DiRado had still yet to individually earn Olympic gold.

Hosszu led the semifinals to take the middle lane in the final next to Canadian Hillary Caldwell. DiRado was seeded in the other lane next to Hosszu. Once breaking out at the 15-meter mark after the start, Hosszu had already maneuvered to the head of the pack. At the first 50, however, DiRado flipped just 0.32s behind Hosszu. At the halfway mark, it was still Hosszu leading by half a second over DiRado. Hosszu and DiRado had also swum the middle 100 of the race almost identically, both splitting 1:03s. The last 50, however, was when DiRado made her attack on Hosszu.

Hosszu was flying from start to finish, already building to a solid finishing speed with 15 meters to go. However, DiRado was slowly gaining on Hosszu, who exploded to a body-length lead after the last wall. When DiRado and Hosszu approached the flags, both swimmers used two different finishes, which of course had two different outcomes. Hosszu rapidly timed the finish with tactical, precise strokes inside the flags, touching the wall instantly on her last stroke. DiRado, however, was still swimming with a more smooth stroke, allowing her to flawlessly time in an underwater lunge to the wall.

At the touch, it was DiRado’s underwater lunge that got to the wall first, defeating Hosszu by 0.06s. DiRado’s final time of 2:05.99 marked a lifetime best for her, becoming the 2nd-fastest American in event history at the time of her swim.

Maya DiRado Katinka Hosszu
1st 50 29.69 29.37
2nd 50 31.78 31.53
3rd 50 31.73 31.82
4th 50 32.79 33.33
Final Time 2:05.99 2:06.05

Finishing 50 Meters of the 200 Back Final:

Here’s what was going through DiRado’s head during that last 50:

Full Race Video + Medal Ceremony

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octopus
2 years ago

Little factoid: in 2016 DiRado raced against Hosszu in 200 bk three times and won all three races.
If it is already today, Happy Birthday to Maya (if she happens to read :))

Mike Balon
2 years ago

The best 2016 moment. Hosszu is a great and gracious swimmer, but Mia winning this was so amazing! Not this excited since 1976 Women’s 4×100.

Awsi Dooger
Reply to  Mike Balon
2 years ago

Same for me. Nothing in the interim 40 years of Olympic swimming was so unexpected and exhilarating

DLSwim
Reply to  Awsi Dooger
2 years ago

I would say that Misty Hyman’s 200 fly in Sidney was just as unexpected and exhilarating, except that the race wasn’t as close.

octopus
Reply to  Mike Balon
2 years ago

Agree, Hosszu was gracious and lovable on the podium, after the “defeat”, which showed only that she is human.

Mike Balon
2 years ago

The best

octopus
2 years ago

It is remarkable that DiRado had been primarily IMer. In 2016, she focused on 200 back, improved a lot and won in Rio. I wonder if Kathleen Baker could do something similar focusing on 200 IM. Good example, worth trying.

octopus
2 years ago

That was the absolute high point of Rio for me, Maya has been my all time favourite. It was a most incredible day – together with the triple tie of 100 fly.

Nswim
Reply to  octopus
2 years ago

I believe it was on the same night as Manuel’s 100 free too. That night was magical

PVSFree
Reply to  Nswim
2 years ago

I was in Europe at the time, so I was watching at 3 am furiously texting American friends that entire night. It was awesome

octopus
Reply to  Nswim
2 years ago

Manuel won in the previous night, i believe. Ledecky’s 800 was on the same magic night. (also I must say – 3 Hungarian medals that night) :

Nswim
2 years ago

I almost forgot that Hosszu won the 100 back in Rio. It’s kinda crazy to think since it’s pretty much been a battle of Baker, Masse, Smith, Smoliga and more ever since.

iLikePsych
Reply to  Nswim
2 years ago

That meet really was the changing the guard, with Missy and Seebohm fizzling out and Hosszu at her peak, and Baker and Masse at 2 & 3 when they’d both hold the WR 1-2 years later. And now of course there’s the whole uprising of US backstroke stars led by Regan Smith (and there’s another article higher up on that right now)

BairnOwl
Reply to  iLikePsych
2 years ago

+ Minna Atherton and Kaylee McKeown from Australia, Taylor Ruck from Canada, etc. Incredible amount of young talent.

Swimfan
2 years ago

Natalie coughlin had the best under Waters at the Beijing Olympics. I remember her leading at the half way and 100 free. She did a dolphin kick on her side and she held that longer and got up farther and faster before anybody else

Gator
2 years ago

……and then she, on national TV, promptly quit and threw the sport of swimming under the bus in favor of a silly desk job.

octopus
Reply to  Gator
2 years ago

She announced before the trial that she would quit whatever happens She has other things to do.

PVSFree
Reply to  Gator
2 years ago

Isn’t she working a well paid consulting job with a Stanford degree? I’d say that’s the kind of role model we want in the swimming world

frug
Reply to  PVSFree
2 years ago

She was, but now she has an even better gig as Portfolio Manager at a major philanthropic organization.

https://kingphilanthropies.org/team/maya-dirado/

Ferb
Reply to  Gator
2 years ago

I thought your comment was funny. Apparently, not everyone got it.

About Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro started swimming at age 11, instantly becoming drawn to the sport. He was a breaststroker and IMer when competing. After joining SwimSwam, the site has become an outlet for him to research and learn about competitive swimming and experience the sport through a new lenses. He graduated in …

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