There are not many people who can please this 12,000-person strong Hungarian crowd.
They’ll politely applaud the greats of this week — the Americans Caeleb Dressel and Katie Ledecky, the South African Chad le Clos. But for the most part, the people in the seats are Hungarians. And what they really came for is to see Hungarians on the top of the podium.
After winning the world title in 200-meter individual medley this week, Katinka Hosszu gave the crowd exactly what they came for.
“An opportunity like this, that I can swim in front of the home crowd, is very, very rare,” said Hosszu on a video posted to her YouTube channel.
It was an experience she didn’t take for granted.
Born in Hungary, Hosszu learned to swim from her grandfather when she was just 4. She left Hungary for college, attending the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where she was a star. It was there she met her husband Shane Tusup who eventually became her coach.
At the 2017 FINA World Championships in Budapest — she’s a hometown hero.
That’s because she’s an amazing swimmer. Her accomplishments in the pool have rightfully made her country proud. She holds numerous world titles and last year at the Olympics racked up four medals for the country — three of them gold. She’s a formidable opponent.
“It’s always difficult to swim against Katinka,” said Mireia Belmonte, who won gold for Spain in the 200-meter butterfly this week, repeating her Olympic victory. “It’s even more difficult to do it here with the crowd and everyone cheering her.”
It’s what everyone has been talking about. There are hordes of Hungarian fans — there’s hardly an empty seat during most of the swimming finals.
“What a great honor to be here in this fantastic stadium,” le Clos said earlier in the week. “Probably the best support I’ve ever heard, even though it obviously wasn’t for me.”
That crowd is loud, and they’re cheering for Hosszu.
“It was even a little bit distracting,” Hosszu said on her YouTube channel, “Everyone was cheering and the whole arena was in red, white and green.”
It was emotion that she felt wholeheartedly, and it was a crowd she wanted to win in front of, and for.
“I was almost tearing up after the competition,” she said.
And that was just after the semifinal races.
So Hosszu did what she does best. The Iron Lady, as she’s known, donned her swim cap, put her goggles on, jumped in the pool — and swam. She channeled the enthusiasm of the crowd and her sheer athleticism into a gold-medal victory, accomplishing for the crowd exactly what they were hoping for.
“I guess there is no higher level than this,” said Hosszu after her win. “I have become a world champion in Budapest.”
(By Jolene Latimer)