The Iron Lady is back

The Iron Lady is back

SINGAPORE - She went shopping and had quite a bit to eat.

And both experiences in Singapore took Katinka Hosszu's breath away.

The Hungarian swimming star met The New Paper yesterday brandishing a pair of white sports pumps with gold trimmings she just bought, and exclaimed: "I knew about Marina Bay Sands, but I didn't realise, oh my God, there are malls everywhere!

"The buffet, oh my God, I like the food, but the desserts are amazing... you can make your own ice cream, and that's just not good for me!"

The 24-year-old seems like an ordinary girl-next-door who likes shopping, eating and punctuates sentences with "oh my God" and "it's crazy".

But once she slips a swimsuit onto her 1.70-metre frame and leaps into the pool, Hosszu morphs into a machine nicknamed the "Iron Lady".

She is one of the stars who will be competing in the Singapore leg of the Fina Swimming World Cup 2013 (short course), which starts today at the Singapore Sports School.

Hosszu first made waves when she won the 400m individual medley at the 2009 World Championships (long course) in Rome, and went on to build a reputation of competing in a high volume of events.

Last year, she swam 104 races (42 heats and 62 finals) in the Fina World Cup (short course) within 40 days, standing on the podium 53 times (39 gold, eight silver and six bronze medals).

She chalked up an incredible 27,600m - no other athlete has attempted such a programme in the World Cup, according to the European Aquatics website.

This year, Hosszu has already covered 12,450m after five meets, winning 20 golds, eight silvers and six bronzes in 71 races.

She could try to defend the 200m and 800m freestyle, 200m butterfly and 400m IM events she won here last year, and will decide if she wants to swim another race during the two-day meet.

Worryingly for her rivals, she told TNP: "It's kind of getting easier for me to swim so many events because I'm getting used to it.

"I'm getting to the point where there are not many more events to swim. So we're trying to focus on quality now and improving the time.

"I just love to race.

"I will feel tired after two races, but knowing I have three races left, I just get behind the blocks, I see seven swimmers next to me and I just want to beat everyone!"

With 579 points, Hosszu is so far ahead of second-placed Spaniard Mireia Belmonte (187) in the World Cup standings, she can afford to miss the last three legs (Singapore, Tokyo and Beijing) and still claim the overall crown.

However, Hosszu, who confesses to getting a kick out of picking the fastest lane while clearing customs at airports, will compete here. What spurs her is her Olympic medal drought, which has lasted since her first appearance in Athens 2004.

London 2012 hit her particularly hard as she lost out on a bronze by a mere 0.58sec in the 400m IM.

"I wanted so badly to get a medal in London," she said.

"It's the only major medal I don't have in my career and I will have to wait until Rio 2016 for another chance.

"But that's what drives me because I want to show I'm more than just a fourth-placed swimmer."

Despite her busy schedule, Hosszu squeezed in a wedding in August and a subsequent honeymoon in Seychelles, after she married American Shane Tusup, who happens to be her coach.

Tusup, 25, said the Olympic disappointment could be the best thing to happen to his wife, and they are working towards setting the record right at the Rio Games in 2016.

Telepathic

Hosszu, a psychology graduate, said of her husband: "It really helps to have someone so close, someone who understands me.

"I dive into the pool and he knows how I feel, it's crazy.

"Perhaps one weakness I have is I can get so competitive I can't really focus on turns and starts.

"Sometimes I just want to be quick, I just rush through the race.

"I guess I just have to step back and focus on myself and not everyone else."

With three short-course world records (100 IM, 200 IM, 400 IM), Hosszu is looking for something special here.

"I think it's possible to break a world record here," she said. "I'll definitely try to get as close as I can."


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