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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Interesting, I’ve never heard this brought up, but looking at the splits the were both dying on the end!. Maya just held on better.


This was a major highlight from the Rio Olympics for me. Still have it saved on the DVR.

sane swim parent

Agreed. A beautiful race from DiRado.


The thing that hurt husszo in that race what’s her last turn underwater, if you listen to the commentators “the last turn really hurt you at the matter of staying under long enough but not too long” when housszu popped up that last turn you could tell the last 25 meters she was hurting


Her touch cost her the race imo. It was awful. Dirado swam the race of her life and deserved to go out on a high like that.


The commentator must know, she was excellent real expert. Nicole Livingstone a medalist in the same 200 back in Atlanta.

About Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro has had a huge passion for swimming since his first dive in the pool, instantly becoming drawn to the sport. He was a breaststroker and IMer when competing, but still uses the sport as his go-to cardio. SwimSwam has become an outlet for him to continue showing his …

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