Reine du bassin à Barcelone
Krisztina Egerszegi won three Olympic gold medals in Barcelona, the 100m backstroke, the 200m backstroke and the 400m medley. Affectionately known as ‘the Little Mouse’ in her native Hungary, which was a play on her name and a reflection of her diminutive size, Egerszegi became only the third female swimmer in history to win three individual events at one Olympic Games, Debbie Meyer and Janet Evens, both of the USA, being the other two.
Krisztina was just 14 years old when she won her first gold medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games in South Korea, making her the youngest-ever female Olympic swimming Champion. She won the 200m backstroke, the same event she would win both in Barcelona four years later and again in Atlanta at the Olympic Games after that. Only Australia’s Dawn Fraser has won three consecutive Olympic titles in the same discipline, swimming the 100m freestyle.
A five-time Olympic Champion in all, Egerszegi also took silver at the Seoul Games in the 100m Backstroke and a bronze medal in Atlanta in the 400m medley. She broke the 100m and 200m backstroke world records during her career. Her 200m record time of 2:06.62 stood for almost 17 years.
Hide & Seek
Egerszegi learnt to swim at the age of four under the tutorship of Hungarian team coach Laszlo Kiss. She arrived in Seoul for her first Olympic Games weighing just 46 kilograms and standing only 166 centimeters tall. Kiss later said he believed Egerszegi was too young to experience any competition nervousness. “It was more a question of playing hide and seek with her in the Olympic Village to keep her from getting bored.” He revealed.
Egerszegi retired from swimming after the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta at the age of only 22. Seven-times Hungarian Sports Woman of the Year, she was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2001.