2020 TOKYO SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES
- When: Pool swimming: Saturday, July 24 – Sunday, August 1, 2021
- Open Water swimming: Wednesday, August 4 – Thursday, August 5, 2021
- Where: Olympic Aquatics Centre / Tokyo, Japan
- Heats: 7 PM / Semifinals & Finals: 10:30 AM (Local time)
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The defending Olympic silver medalist in the women’s 200 meter backstroke Katinka Hosszu has stalled out in the preliminary rounds of the event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
This means that only 1 of the finalists from the last Olympic Games, China’s Liu Yaxin, will advance to the semi-finals of this year’s Games. In fact, only two Rio semifinalists, including Emily Seebohm of Australia, will move on from the prelims.
The 32-year old Hungarian, nicknamed the “Iron Lady” for her incredible feats in the pool, finished 20th out of 27 participants in the race with a time of 2:12.84 in what was her last shot at an Olympic medal this week. She was one of several known veterans to have missed the final in this race, including Daryna Zevina, Daria K Ustinova (4th in Rio), Ali Galyer, and Simona Kubova, as they ceded the right-of-way to a younger generation of backstrokers.
Among the swimmers who did advance: another Hungarian, Katalin Burian, who qualified 8th in 2:09.10.
Hosszu throughout most of her early career was an IMer and butterflier, primarily. In the run-up to the 2015 World Championships, however, she began to really shift her focus to the backstroke races, which saw her win the bronze at the 2015 World Championships and silver a year later at the 2016 Olympics in the 200 back, as well as the 2016 gold medal in the 100 backstroke.
Post-Rio, Hosszu would eventually split from her coach, and husband, Shane Tusup. A year on from that, she was still able to capture gold in the 200 IM and 400 IM at the 2019 World Championships. Her other races started to crack, however. She was 8th in the final of the 200 back there – adding two-and-a-half seconds from her semifinal time, and scratched the 100 backstroke.
Hosszu really began to show the cracks in her iron during the 2020 International Swimming League season, where, entering with big expectations to be a top performer, she struggled to win races and finished just 33rd in the league in MVP scoring.
It is hard now to imagine a path back to major international podiums for Hosszu in her 30s, though she seems a primary candidate for focusing on World Cup and ISL meets as primary, rather than off-season, racing opportunities.
Hosszu’s struggles at these Olympics don’t undercut the accomplishments of what was one of the most incredible decades in swimming we’ve ever seen. She won 9 long course World Championships, including back-to-back-to-back-to-back titles in both the 200 IM and 400 IM. She reinvented herself from butterflier to backstroker to freestyler seemingly at will, holding World Records in 7 different individual events at various points of her career. She entered, and won, almost every race at a meet more than once. She amassed an incredible list of victories that most swimmers wouldn’t even attempt, let alone achieve, including 35 European Championships and 17 World Short Course Championships. She’s the winningest swimmer in FINA World Cup history, and it’s not even close.
Hosszu doesn’t have the Olympic medals to compete in debates with Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky, but in her own right she’s a swimmer who has redefined the sport, expectations for what’s possible, and has set a bar for future generations of swimmers.
Given enough time, enough water, and enough oxygen, iron will eventually rust, and the Iron Lady’s indominable exploits couldn’t last forever. But it was an incredible ride to watch.
Katinka Hosszu‘s Tokyo 2020 Olympic Results:
- Women’s 400 IM – 5th place (4:35.98)
- Women’s 200 IM – 7th place (2:12.38)
- Women’s 200 fly – Scratch
- Women’s 200 backs – 20th (2:12.84)