Katinka Hosszú is an IM, butterfly, and freestyle swimmer, who won two gold medals (200 & 400 IM) and a bronze (200 fly) in the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona. Just days after Barcelona finished, Katinka broke six short-course world records in five days (100 IM three times, 200 IM twice, 400 IM once) in building a big lead in the 2013 FINA World Cup Tour.
Shane Tusup is a former USC Trojan swimmer, owner of the Toos Sports Agency, and coach of Katinka. The couple got married in the Seychelles in August, 2013, and currently live in Budapest, Hungary.
Questions by Craig Lord at SwimVortex in cooperation with Arena Water Instinct
IN YOUR ELEMENT
What does water mean to you?
Katinka: Water has been around me my whole life. My grandfather was a swimming coach, and he took me to the pool before I was even one year old, just a few months, in fact. Sometimes I went to the pool instead of going to kindergarten. So I’ve always looked forward to spending time in the water, and even when we go on vacation, we go to the beach, somewhere there’s a pool, or at least a waterfall.
Shane: I’ve never really thought about what water means to me before, but when I look back on it, I’ve always been drawn to water and watersports my entire life. I was born at the beach, I moved to New York with my family, where I joined the swim team, and even in Hungary there’s a history of swimming, so it’s always been present.
What is water instinct?
Katinka: Even after about 20 years of training and swimming, sometimes I get in the pool and I just feel better. After, say, a really hard dry land session, I get in the water and it feels so much better. Sometimes I stop for a second and just enjoy the swimming, to feel the water, and all my movements in it.
Shane: When I watch Katinka swimming, I walk up and down the pool, and eventually I see a pattern of how she is swimming and how the strokes are going at that moment, which gives me a general picture of exactly where we are and what we’re doing. There’ve been a couple of times, such as before Short Course Worlds, when all of a sudden I got this weird feeling – I can’t really explain it – that she’d do unbelievable things. It’s really hard to describe exactly what gives me that feeling, but I get it beforehand and know that she’s going to explode and go really fast.
WINNING HABITS – how do the following manifest themselves in your life:
Shane: How willing are you to do what you say you’re actually going to do – are you just going to talk about how you want to work hard and be a world record holder, world champion, Olympic medallist, or are you willing to sacrifice things to take those steps forward, to take action and do the hard work, giving up things that may be uncomfortable for us.
Katinka: It’s difficult to add anything to what Shane said about these things, but I’ll try. For me, devotion is about how much you’re willing to sacrifice for your goals.
Shane: It’s the willingness to stay on top of the track you’re following, even if life throws you a curve ball or things don’t go entirely according to plan, and they take you in another direction than you originally thought. So it’s about taking things as they come, moving forward, and adjusting as needed.
Katinka: It’s about how badly you want something and how willing you are to work hard for it. On days when you’re not feeling that great, you still need to put in the same kind of work that you did on other days when everything was perfect. In training I always try to do my best, and even if I feel a little off that day, I still at least try to put the effort in even if the times aren’t coming.
Shane: Once you’ve figured out what your big picture goal is, you need to figure out what the other smaller (incremental) goals are to get there. Discipline is taking care of your goals one step at a time, even if it’s not comfortable or fun, in order to move forward (towards the big picture goal).
Katinka: In a way, our whole day is about scheduling, so I’m always aware what I need to do, even when I’m not in the pool or the gym – I need to watch what I eat, I need to rest, I need to do rehab, for example. So it’s about always keeping on track and keeping my goals in mind 24 hours a day.
Katinka: My goals. I have big goals, one of which is obviously going to Rio, and after London we set the goals for the next four years. But I always have smaller goals for practice, in a set for example, and these are the things that motivate me every day.
Shane: I’m kind of addicted to success, not necessarily in a global sense in terms of money, accomplishments, things like that, but rather in terms of achieving the goals I set for myself. This could be as simple as, for example, playing a video game and trying to get to the next level, that becomes my addiction, to try and find a way to get myself to the next level. Swimming’s a great avenue for that because there are so many different ways to set goals – the World Cup, for Short Course Europeans, for European Championships, World Championships, anything you can think of. It makes it fun, achieving smaller goals as well as bigger ones, and you motivate yourself with this adrenalin that keeps going.
song best describes your work ethic?
Katinka: Kanye West’s “Monster”. I try to be very aggressive in practice, and that song goes in that direction.
is the meaning of time to you?
Katinka: I love swimming times. (In a more general sense,) I wish there were more hours in a day. I would definitely train more and do other stuff more as well. I try to enjoy my time in the present, I’m having a lot of fun training with Shane, travelling, having fun with racing and swimming in general.
Shane: Time is the most valuable thing any of us have, more so than money or anything else – you can’t buy it, you can’t make more of it, you’ve got only as much time as there is. So it’s quite appropriate that swimming is the sport we’re involved with, its (success is) determined by time. (Given its scarcity), you have to be wise with how to use it, what you choose to do with it, who you choose to spend that time with. I don’t have to choose if I want to coach or to spend my time with Katinka, I’m a very lucky man to be able to coach my wife, the person I want to spend my life with, to travel with her and spend my time with her between practices and places, so time for me is extremely important.
skills and mindset does a podium-placer need?
Katinka: You have to do the work, you have to be talented, but in finals and big competitions, most of the athletes have done the work and are talented, so mindset and being able to give everything you’ve got in the race is what makes the difference between being in the final and getting on to the podium.
Shane: I agree with Katinka, and you also have to be able to enjoy what you’re doing. No race at the top level is going to be easy, no workout in getting there is going to be easy, the road is long and hard, you have to be able to get up there and simply enjoy what you’re doing. It’s easy to say “go and enjoy yourself”, but I don’t think it’s that easy, a lot of people have a hard time with that.
was the best race you ever saw?
Katinka: It’s a really tough question, and I don’t think I could choose just one. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a final, it could be one of the races leading up to it, and it depends on what you’re looking for. A race that someone wins by 10m could be a great race, but if you’re looking for a close, exciting race, it’s a different story.
Shane: I agree with what she said, it’s really tough, it depends on what perspective you’re looking at it with. When you’re involved with swimming you know more about what goes into it than someone who’s just watching on TV, and everything has a huge back story to it. I’m going to try and be unbiased, but I’m going to have to say that for me it was Katinka’s 200 IM at the finals in Barcelona. It was the first Long Course Championship since London, and theoretically the 400 is seen as her better race, and the 200 the weaker of the two, but she just said, “You know what, I’m just going to go for it and take what I want, see you guys later”, and it was great to see her respond like that.
When and in what circumstances were you first aware of swimming at the Olympic Games and what drew your attention and caught your interest?
Katinka: My grandfather taught me to swim and I was pretty successful in my age groups growing up. When I was 10 years old, I saw a video of an interview with myself, and while I don’t actually remember it, I clearly said that I was going to be an Olympic champion in 2004. I made the Olympic team in 2004, but I only came 31st, so I still had a long way to go, but it seems I was already thinking of it when I was very young. It was always my goal to represent Hungary, and I’m pretty sure my grandfather also influenced me a lot (in striving for that goal).
Shane: I remember watching in our living room with my parents, and it gives me the same kind of good feeling that thinking back on Christmas does when you were growing up. I don’t remember the specifics of what I told my parents, but I do remember telling them I wanted to be in the Olympics and accomplish things. I was very dedicated as an age group swimmer, and my big goal was to try and make the US Olympic trial cut, to move up the ranks and try and qualify one day. So everything I did season to season was always based around that idea.
You’re on Arena World Cup Tour: what’s the purpose – what do you wish to emerge with to take into the season ahead?
Katinka: As we said earlier, we always have goals, and every time I get up on the block I usually have a goal in mind. So participating in the World cup Tour gives me a lot of opportunity to reach these goals.
Shane: When a swimmer doesn’t swim consistently back-to-back, I wouldn’t get a view of exactly where they are – I’d get a view of where they are at that point in time, but it’s not consistent. Last year it was good that she did the Tour because I understood exactly where her strokes were technically, how consistent she was, how she swam when she was tired or fresh, and I really connected with Katinka and felt more comfortable with how I approached things after the Tour than I did before the Tour. Even after Barcelona this year, I’m still learning things, and compared with 2012, this year I’ve seen a lot more technical aspects we still want to work on with the long course season coming up. I love that she can race and get the money, fight for the overall champion title, and set ourselves up for the long course season. For me, short course metres and long course metres are not that different, they’re a lot closer and more similar than most people think, so the way I design the (training) program was to use them (long and short course) to influence each other. We used 2012 to influence 2013, and 2013 short course meters will influence 2014.
So ahead of the tour, do you decide you’re going to swim all 8 meets, and if so set the goal of winning the overall title?
Shane: We have to be honest with ourselves here – anyone who swims all 8 meets will want to win the overall title. Both of us are very competitive, so that’s always going to be the goal. If it’s just a race or a competition, obviously the goal is still to win, there may be other specific goals or sub-goals in mind, but I don’t think Katinka has ever swum a race and not tried to win.
Back in August, you took care of a lot of the Tour’s business with those six world records and the points they amassed – were any of those targeted swims to try and get close to the record?
Shane: I was pretty confident that she would get them. She just missed them in Turkey in Istanbul (at the 2012 world Short Course Championships), and if she was feeling good I told her that she should go for it and the rest was up to her.
Katinka: I was pretty confident going into the World Cup Tour after Barcelona, especially being excited at how well I did, so after the big meet it was a lot of fun without the pressure. Going in trying to break a world record in prelims seemed pretty crazy to me at first, but after breaking the first one in prelims I thought why not?
Three places on the swimming trail that you intend to return to for leisure one day
Katinka: I would love to go back to a lot of places. Most of the time we just see the hotel and not much else, and I’m very curious, there are so many places I’d like to go back to. We’ve been fortunate to travel so much, but there are also many places I haven’t been that I’d like to see as well, so I think we’re going to keep travelling for a while. If I really had to choose, I really love Tokyo, and also California. I grew up in the countryside, so I’m more of a city girl now, and while I love getting into nature, I’m not a crazy camper or anything like that.
Shane: Wherever makes Katka happy, I’d be happy to go back and revisit.