Katinka Hosszu had great Olympic Games in Rio: Three gold medals, one silver and she swam a fantastic world record in the 400 m IM.
What a difference this Olympics has been for the “Iron Lady” compared to the 2012 edition where she did not make it onto the podium. Afterwards many people asked her why she has put so much work into her sport and couldn’t have won a medal and advised her to focus on her career outside the pool.
With the support of her husband and coach Shane Tusup and her family, she continued her career and earned her nickname the“Iron Lady” by taking on touch racing schedules at swim meets. For example, it is normal to see her at a World Cup in every final – sometimes with only 10 – 15 minutes rest between her races.
Katinka credits her exhausting competition schedule for helping her to set WR’s in the IM events. She states that racing is “the chance to practice with some of the best swimmers in the world. It is all about racing and performing.” She and Shane also use the races to prepare for the big meets, to work on details.
Katinka has taken the advice given to her after her 2012 London Olympic experience and begun to diversify her activities and leverage her success in the pool into a brand. In addition to her swimming, she has also leveraged her career as a business woman into a collection of swimwear with Arena called “Iron Lady.” She even has her own online shop where the retails the merchandise.
In 2015, she expanded her portfolio with products under the brand “Iron Nation.” Katinka stated “As time went on I feel being the Iron Lady is more about pushing your limits and being the best and it is not only about swimming – it is really in every day life and I know in Hungary especially and perhaps some people in the world look up to me as a role model and I realized that I have responsibility for them. That is why we have created the “Iron Nation” so that some people have the chance to be a part of it and of course if you are a guy you don’t want to say “I’am an Iron Lady” so we wanted to create something cool and anyone can be a part of.”
In the first step, she and Shane developed with their Hungarian company products like an “Iron Meal” (a whey-source), an “Iron Shaker,” and an apparel line in the Hungarian market.
In addition, she published two books – one about her journey to the London Olympics and one about her path afterwards (books have yet to be translated into English). Katinka went on a book tour around Hungary, and it was so successful that people stood in line for hours to get a signed copy. Between her branding and competition prize money, Katinka Hosszu is setting herself up well for life after swimming. In fact, she is the first prize-money millionaire that the sport of swimming has produced.
Asking “Are you Iron Nation?” there is also a video with an anthem on her website and she also is a superhero in her own comic strip.
Her appearance in both videos should give her brands “Iron Lady” and “Iron Nation” the iron, steely, tough look – she’s looking to address a larger audience than just female swimmers. “It is a philosophy trying to reach your limits – not only in swimming, also in life.” She wants to reach many people all over the world – to give their best every day.
But it is not all about discipline, building muscles, endurance and mental strength – Katinka Hosszu has tasked herself with improving the sport of swimming in Hungary.
She won three medals at the 2015 World Championships. She used her success to try and leverage better training conditions and support from the Hungarian Swimming Federation as they prepared for the 2016 Olympic Games. Ultimately, the Federation denied her requests. In return, Hosszu denied the Federation’s request to be the flagship for the 2017 World Championships that are to be hosted in Budapest, Hungary in a dramatic press conference – she ripped the contract in half in front of media. The consequences were far-reaching and drew a lot of publicity, including drawing the attention of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán.
Katinka knows that in order for Hungary to continue developing world class swimmers, the country must dedicate funds to age group and professional programs. Hungary has a population of just 9.9 million (compared to Germany:80, Italy: 61, France: 60, Great Britain: 60). Regardless of its small size, Hungary has had outstanding swimmers over decades – including World and Olympic Champions like Tamas Darnyi, Agnes Kovacs, Kristina Egerszegi, Laszlo Cseh, Daniel Gyurta. They are all role models who inspire the next generation of athletes.
In addition to building national support for swimming in Hungary, it is also important for Katinka to build her business around the world. All of her companies are based in Hungary, and she currently has about 19 employees – including some of her childhood friends. Most of the products she promotes are manufactured in Hungary – a demonstration of how important her home country is for her, despite leaving for the United States for college.
Just before the Olympic Games she announced another addition to her extensive business portfolio: A Hungary-based swim program, called Iron Aquatics. The club will serve as an aquatic training program – she and Shane Tusup will continue to motivate and inspire swimmers from all over the word, supported by Darren Ward, coach of Hamilton Aquatics (Dubai). The club program should start in September.
In a press conference she explained her intentions with “Iron aquatics” and also this shows her dedication for swimming, “Even after Rio I would like to stand for important values and keep motivating and inspiring people so we can take Hungarian swimming to the next level. This is exactly why I moved back home after 2012 – to be a part of this process. I feel it’s my responsibility to use my knowledge and experience that I gained the past 23 years. (…) We aim to create a forward thinking and positive training environment where the swimmers can have fun while working hard. (…)”
She told the media some thoughts before she left for the Rio Olympics and it is great to read it now after she finished with such a huge success: “Many of you are counting how many medals, how many gold medals I will get, whether the relay (4×200 free) will make it to the final or not. This can put a lot of pressure on the athletes but I think we should be grateful that this sport entertains and brings together so many people. I only want to make one thing clear: I can’t promise medals, let alone gold medals; I can’t guarantee that I’ll fulfill your expectations. However, there are two things that I can promise. I can promise that I will give everything I have in order to represent Hungary on the highest possible level. I will do everything to give our country the best possible finish.”
With three gold medals and one silver at the Rio Olympic Games, she has continued the tradition of outstanding Hungarian swimmers and she was honored to wear the Hungarian flag at the closing ceremony.
The next World Cup season has kicked off in Chartres, France – with Katinka Hosszu, who will try to win the overall World Cup trophy for the fifth consecutive time.