Katinka Hosszu Rediscovers Her Love of Swimming at USC
By Brian Price
The USC Trojans swimming and diving team are heading into the Pac-10 championships in the fast lane.
"We feel we have everything in place to win a national championship," says Katinka Hosszu, USC's star IM/Free/Fly junior swimmer.
Hosszu won twice in USC's final dual meet of the season against No. 21 UCLA in the 1650-yard free (in 16:20.55) and the 100-yard fly (in 24.82). Overall, the win brings USC's regular season record to 9-2, the same number of wins the Trojans had in 1997, the last time the women of Troy brought home a national championship in swimming and diving.
Hosszu hails from Hungary, a country known for top-flight swimmers. She was drawn to USC like many Hungarian swimmers before her who had matriculated to Troy.
Hungarian swimmer Tomas Kerekjarto (top-25 NCAA all-time in the 200-yard fly) also succeeded at USC.
Encouraged by her predecessors, Hosszu made the decision to become a Trojan based on what she had heard. Initially, the transition was difficult.
"I bought cold sandwiches from the same bookstore for my first week before I realized there was a cafeteria with hot food," she says. "I didn't even know there was a place to get breakfast until my second week."
However, with the help of tutors and teammates she became acclimated and, perhaps even more impressive than her accomplishments in the pool, she picked up spoken English within the first few weeks of being in America.
"I knew a little bit coming in, but being around people who spoke only English really helped me to understand the language," Hosszu recalls. She is now majoring in psychology.
Her swimming has reached a new level as well. Hosszu credits a variety of workouts under head coach Dave Salo that have provided more effective results than the repetitive training back in Hungary.
"We swam so much more yardage in Hungary, whereas at USC we don't swim as much, but it's very intense and there's more of an emphasis on speed and technique," Hosszu says. "Coach [Salo] also designs workouts so we don't realize how hard they are until the next morning when we can barely get out of bed."
In one instance Salo threw physio balls into the pool and instructed his swimmers to balance on top of them and kick for an extended period. Another time, he partnered up swimmers of similar size and had them grasp hands and try to push one another in the opposite direction of the pool for an entire practice.
"Even after two and a half years, Coach's workouts still surprise me!" Hosszu says.
These imaginative and challenging workouts have increased her love of the sport.
"Coming from Hungary I was burnt out, but when I competed in my first [collegiate] competition, and heard the crowds cheering, I remembered how much fun it was to compete. That's what I would tell anybody from my country considering USC: 'You don't know how much fun this sport can be until you try it here.'"
For now, the Trojans are focused on the Pac-10 championships, currently underway in Federal Way, Wash. Hosszu describes the meet as a perfect tune-up between a 5-month regular season and a brief competition in March, after which a national champion will be crowned.
USC enters the Pac-10 championship ranked No. 6 in the nation, but is still looking up the ladder at No. 4 Cal and No. 1 Stanford. Arizona is close behind at No. 7. Overall, six Pac-10 schools are ranked in the top-25 nationally. The winner at Federal Way will emerge as a clear-cut favorite to win the national championship.
Hosszu will enter the Pac-10 championship finals of the 200-yard IM after winning the preliminaries on Thursday with a time of 1:56.22. Today, Hosszu will compete in the finals of the 200-yard IM where she is seeded first and has already qualified for the NCAA's with a time of 1:53.47. However, the Pac-10 and overall NCAA record was set in 2009 by Stanford's Julia Smith with a time of 1:52.79. Expect Hosszu to make a serious run at this record.
"This is also a great meet for some of the underclassmen who are on the bubble to get the times they need to qualify for the NCAA's," adds Hosszu.
Sophomore Haley Anderson needs to shave only .08 seconds off of her 500-yard freestyle time of 4:38.54 to qualify for the NCAA's.
Hosszu will also be competing in the 200-yard butterfly and 400-yard IM on Friday. Her seed times this season have already qualified her for the NCAA's.
After the season is over Hosszu will be working exclusively with Salo in preparation for the World Championships in Shanghai this summer.
The NCAA championships begin March 17 in Austin, Texas.
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