SwimSwam recently had a chance to catch up with Hungarian National Team Coach Shane Tusup. We discussed what the time following the World Championships and the first two World Cup competitions was like and the preparation of his wife and star pupil Katinka Hosszu.
What was like life like outside of the pool after such a successful summer?
Since World Championships and the World Cups, things have been extremely busy for both of us. Obviously, we had the wedding at the end of August, which was a dream come true. But once we got back into the country, there haven’t been enough hours in the day. The kicker was that, as you may know, Kaitnka decided to continue training right after the world cup ended, so the schedule already had 9 hours a day blocked off.
Katinka was in cover shoots for a number of Hungarian magazines, including a wedding/fashion shoot for Maxima, a high fashion shoot for Sport & Style, and what I would call a “classic” photo shoot for the women’s magazine Nok Lapja. Nice part is that there are a number of magazines already lined up for upcoming months.
On the days when she wasn’t in photo shoots, we either had filming for Hungarian TV shows, or business meetings with potential sponsors and/or business partners. Before Barcelona we had Katinka involved in Hungary’s bid to host the 2021 World Championships in Budapest and since then she has been getting more and more involved in working very closely with the Hungarian Federation. Since Barcelona she also opened up her own international Sports Agency and Management Company, which is based out of Budapest.
After such a great season how do you evaluate it? What are your thoughts/evaluation of it?
With the current position I am in, I tend to wear a large number of different hats. That being said, from a personal perspective, I think the season was just breathe taking, and I am just so honored to have been able to be apart of something like this. I am honestly not sure if I could be more proud with how well Katinka went about chasing after her goals following London.
Now from the performance/coaching perspective, it is important to understand that, when we started out post London 2012 we creating a four-year plan to head toward Rio 2016, and this year was what I was considering a test year. Katinka and I, both sat down to design a brand new program based on what we thought was important and what was not important. We agreed that we would follow the program and see how the results turned out at the end of the season and then we would evaluate what worked and what did not work and how we should continue to revamp the program for the following year. The plan is to do this each year as we head toward Rio 2016, this way we have a solid game plan for our approach to Rio and we can simply feel confident that we are putting Katinka in the ideal position to perform at her best.
Personally, I feel that even though this season was hugely successful, we should evaluate it with the same approach that we would have if the season was just okay. We still need to be a little detached and honestly look at what worked and what did not work well, and then were can we improve. We need to make sure that we do not just get excited about the success and forget to evaluate the season properly.
What are your goals for the upcoming season?
Both Katinka and I, have a long list of goals we want her to accomplish. I have long-term goals, short-term goals and pretty much very type of goal in the middle. I strongly feel that having big goals is useless if you don’t understand the smaller accomplishments that will take in order for you to be in a position to chase after those big goals. I have heard some people talk about my program and they refer to all the events that Katinka swims and think that I just want to jack up the number of events, but in reality every race has a purpose and we have a very specific goal in mind each time she competes.
How do you balance preparing for so many different events and distances?
A lot of the balancing act in my program hinges on the fact that Katinka’s main focus at this point in time is the 200 and 400 Individual medley. I started the program based around the idea of being successful in those races and then just try to make sure that the program continues to focus on eliminating Katinka’s weaknesses while building on her natural strengths.
It also helps that it appears that Katinka was simply born to compete. I’m not sure she cares what style or distance the competition is, she simply just wants to go head to head and do everything she can to come out on top.
You have stated quite a few times that you have never seen an athlete work as hard as she does, what are some things that impress you in her daily preparation?
To be completely honest, there have been a lot of sets where my jaw has just dropped, while she completely ate my workout alive. One of my challenges as a coach is to make sure I am always challenging her in her training. But the part that really makes me just stand in awe of her ability to train is her consistency, its not that she dominates one workout here and one workout there, its her ability to just get up and dominate workouts one after another, even as they become more and more challenging. It’s her willingness to do whatever she needs to do to be one of the best in the world.
It is not always easy for a swimmer to have so much success in both SCM and LCM in the same season what do you think are the main reasons she has been able to have that success? and how have you accomplished this in your planning?
I think the most important aspect of this is simply perspective on what you are doing. I think that too many people view the differences between SCM and LCM as much bigger then they actually are. There are obviously a few major differences between the two formats but I think people see them as almost two different sports, while I see those differences as ways to improve the other format. With my program, we decided to have the SCM training and racing influence the LCM training and racing which would turn around and re-influence SCM. This is probably why everyone things Katinka is so much better at SCM, because it was simply first in the cycle of the program.
What do you feel makes Katinka different than other swimmers in the way of mindset?
In my personal opinion, Katinka’s mindset has always been one of her greatest strengths by far, but I think everything simply clicked for her after London.
On the morning of the first day, she had a life long dream come true, she made an Olympic final, and then in the evening she had one of her greatest fears come true, to be so close to something you have dreamt about for as long as you could remember and yet not have been good enough to get it at that moment in time. She was proud of her accomplishments but I think the sting of being touched out for the bronze medal was pretty hard on her.
Immediately following London, as positive as I was, I have to say I was a little unsure she would bounce back. It took a couple weeks and a whole lot of conversations about it, but then all of a sudden I think it all clicked for her, she realized that the hardest situation to embrace just happened to her and she survived. The world did not end as she had thought it might, and she was still standing.
Since then she is a different animal, she talks the same, acts the same, trains the same, but she simply isn’t afraid anymore. There simply is no fear in her anymore. Honestly, I hate to admit this, but I am glad she didn’t get a medal in London, I don’t think we would have the Iron Lady right now if she did. I think missing out on a medal in London forced her into showing us her true colors.
What will Katinka’s meet schedule look like this year?
Katinka’s competition schedule this year will be pretty similar to last year’s. I read somewhere that they counted and she did 122 races LCM last year. I didn’t count last year and I have no intention of counting this year either but wouldn’t be surprised if she passed that number this year, but the schedule itself should be pretty similar. I have penciled in a little longer in certain training locations we found to be good training environments, and I would like to use those opportunities to hit some additional competitions, but at the current moment we are still in the logistical organization process in regards to all of those. I do know that even with all the racing we do, some portions of the calendar are still pretty bare when it comes to competitions. If any meet organization committees are interested in having us at their competition, please don’t hesitate to contact me.