Hungary’s ‘Iron Lady’ shines again as Olympic records tumble
Showing no signs of letting up on her charge to swimming glory, Katinka Hosszu of Hungary won her second swimming gold of Rio 2016 on Monday, on a night when several Olympic records fell.
Dubbed the ‘Iron Lady’ on account of her stamina, 11-time world champion Hosszu followed up her comfortable victory in the 400m individual medley by beating the USA’s Kathleen Baker to 100m backstroke gold with a time of 58.45. The bronze was shared by Canada’s Kylie Masse and China’s Fu Yuanhui.
“It’s really cool, I can’t believe I’ve won the 100 back,” said the 27-year-old Hungarian, who pulled away from fastest-qualifier Baker in the closing strokes to win a thrilling race. “I know I’ve done the 100 back in the 400IM (400 individual medley) , and the goal was to make it like second nature when I came to Rio, which is how it felt.”
Competing in five events in all at Rio 2016, the indefatigable Hosszu set an Olympic record of 2:07.45 in her 200m individual medley heat earlier in the day. After then cruising through her semi-final, she is an overwhelming favourite to win a third gold in four days in Tuesday’s final.
“I have been training hard for four years to come to Rio and for it to be second nature,” added the tireless Hungarian, who has also entered the 200m backstroke and 200m butterfly. “It really feels that way. I am fresh and in great shape.”
In the second women’s final of the day, American teenager Lilly King swam an Olympic record 1:04.93 to beat Russia’s Yulia Efimova to gold in the women’s 100m breaststroke. King’s team-mate Katie Meili took the bronze, with London 2012 champion Ruta Meilutyte of Lithuania fading in the second length to finish seventh.
King swam a strong first 50 metres and led at the turn, with Efimova well adrift in fourth. Though the Russian surged back, the American finished powerfully, beating Efimova to the touch by 0.57 seconds.
“Tonight has been so crazy,” said a jubilant King. “My life is changing right now. I’m a gold medallist and it’s what I’ve always wanted to be and it’s an incredible feeling.”
The USA’s Ryan Murphy set a new Olympic record of his own to grab men’s 100m backstroke gold and extend his country’s remarkable domination of the event to six successive Games, a run dating back to Atlanta 1996.
The 21-year-old American stopped the clock in 51.97 seconds, with China’s Xu Jiayu taking silver and Murphy’s compatriot David Plummer the bronze. The time was the second fastest in history, just outside the world record of 51.94 set by compatriot Aaron Peirsol in 2009.
“I don’t even feel tired just because I’m so excited,” said Murphy, a first-time Olympian. “This means everything to me. I’ve been swimming for 16 years and to have it come to this is just a dream come true.”
Having led at the turn, Australia’s world champion Mitch Larkin finished out of the medals in fourth.
The day’s other swimming gold went to China’s Sun Yang, who won the men’s 200m freestyle final in a time of 1:44.65, ahead of South Africa’s Chad le Clos and the USA’s Conor Dwyer. In bouncing back from losing his 400m title to Australian Mack Horton, the Chinese giant became the first man to win three of the five Olympic freestyle titles.
“I’ve won gold medals in the 400 and 1,500 metres and the only thing missing was the 200,” said Sun, who reeled in Le Clos after the South African had led at the turn following an explosive start.
Le Clos returned to the pool later in the evening to resume his rivalry with 19-time Olympic gold medallist Michael Phelps in the semi-final of the 200m butterfly, a title the South African is defending. Hungary’s Tamas Kenderesi beat them both, however, with Phelps qualifying second and Le Clos fourth to progress to Tuesday’s final, in which the American will seek to land a record-extending 20th gold.