W400 Medley: Katinka Hosszu 4:26 WR Adds New Line To A Truly Unique Profile

Katinka Hosszu

The transformation from a woman who once raced her peers to one who dominates them is complete. Reminding us of the kind of dominance over 400m medley that we last saw in the age of Petra Schneider in 1980, Katinka Hosszu, of Hungary, added another line to a truly unique profile: 4:26.39. A world record of enormity – and that from a winner who is six years older than the average age of champions in the event down the years.

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The transformation from a woman who once raced her peers to one who dominates them is complete. Reminding us of the kind of dominance over 400m medley that we last saw in the age of Petra Schneider in 1980, Katinka Hosszu, of Hungary, added another line to a truly unique profile: 4:26.39. A world record of enormity – and that from a winner who is six years older than the average age of champions in the event down the years.



I cannot comprehend 4:26 LCM.

We talk about Ledecky being the most dominant swimmer, but the gap between Ledecky and Leah Smith in 400 free is only 2 seconds, this one between Hosszu and Dirado/Belmonte is 5 seconds!

Judging by this 400 IM, I think Hosszu will start as favorite in 200 back.
If only Hungary had as good depth in women’s swimming as USA for relays, Hosszu would have eclipsed Ledecky in this Olympics.

Bad Anon

I think in this form Hosszu has to be the favourite in all her events… I think she’ll make a statement swim in the 100 back prelims later today, Gemma Spofforth’s 58.12WR is under serious threat…. Unless Seebohm can match Peaty’s time and dominance(57.55), she’ll be vulnerable to the Hosszu juggernaut

Gergely Kun

Hi Craig, I have a question for you that I wanted to ask some time ago now which might be a silly one but I am going to go ahead anyway

So you described Hosszus 200IM wr time of 2:06.12 as” off the chart” several times right, so I was just comparing male and female wr differences to see how off the chart that time is based on that:

200 free
1:42.00 vs 1:53.61 difference: 11.61

1:52.09 vs 2:04.06 difference: 11.97

1:52.96 vs 2:04.06 difference: 11.10

2:07.01 vs 2:19.11 difference: 12.11

1:54.00 vs 2:06.12 difference: 12.12

so if you look at that Hosszus time is actually the farthest away from the male counterparts wrs still that is that one thats “off the chart” for you whilst the others, I assume, are all ok. So Im wondering is there something that makes IM so much different to the rest of the strokes??? Im really not sure what the answer to that is or if the whole thing makes much sense so Im curious what you think.

Just for fun we can look at 400 free/IM too:

3:40.08 vs 3:58.37 difference: 18.26
4:03.84 vs 4:26.36 difference: 22.52

so here if the difference was 18.16 in the IM the wr would be 4:22.10. Everyone is trying to find the words to describe Hosszus 4:26 what would we say to a 4:22 flat?

Just wanna stress as well this is not about Hosszu its about why the 2:06.12 and the 4:26.36 is so unbelievable and “off the chart” for a female athlete while the others are all ok.

Btw the question is open to everyone if you got any interesting ideas.


I spotted several fallacies in your argument:

1. It’s not possible to compare absolute numbers. Change the difference in absolute numbers to percentage.
2. You used textile world records for some events but rubber suit world records for some others. For comparison, it should be consistent.
3. Even if you do the two things above, it is still not possible to directly compare differences of men and women events between events and distances as physiologically, men and women bodies perform differently at different events and distances. For example, if percentage gap between men and women WRs in 50 free is larger than in 800 free.


The percentage difference between men 50 free WR (20.91) and women WR (23.73) is more than 13%, while the difference between men 800 free WR (7:32.12) and women WR (8:06.68) is around 6%.

Generally,the greater the distance, the smaller the percentage gap between men and women’s times.

Basically, you cannot directly compare men and women’s times across different distances and different events, let alone multi stroke events like IM.

Craig Lord

I’m comparing the athlete to the athlete, Gergely. It was off the chart. I’m not comparing her to men… I’m comparing her to herself, her former self and to other women in the context of a long career and in the context of history

Dan smith

aswimfan I agree.
I know it sounds weird but I think the men,s 800 free WR is slightly weak. The men don’t train for it, so they don’t particularly swim it the way they swim the 1500 free. Call me crazy but I think someone like gregorio Paltrinieri can swim something like a 7:28 if he puts his mind to it. But I think he,s more interested in the 1500 WR. In mens swimming the 1500 free is more prestigious than the 800 free. In women,s swimming, the 800 free is more prestigious than the 1500 free.

There are some fans who want to replace the women,s 800 free with the 1500 at the Olympics but some old time swimmers eg Rebecca Addington are against it. Not sure we’re ledecky stands on it though.

And yeah, katinka hosszu,s 2:06:12 was off the charts.

One more thing, it still baffles me that a man of kosuke hagino,s size can swim the times that he does. Incredible. I think he has a 4:05 in him.


I am very deflated at this result; 4:26 is not possible but there it is, and off that baseline, what is to come in her other four events? Craig has documented her improvements since London and they are beyond belief.
“The sighs and sinking spirits all about you up on the media bench are a sign of the times.”
I would like to hear more of the media reaction but there are of course legal constraints there, so we won’t see it in print.

Blah Blah

Dan Smith, distance in general is not nearly as competitive as other events imho…

interestingly, in track and field, the gender gap is relatively constant across distances, and take out Ledecky and the gap isn’t as pronounced in swimming either…

Gergely Kun


I find your answer quite interesting especially what you say about men and women bodies performing differently on different events and distances. That might just be the answer although I am not exactly sure how or why it is so.

I did indeed compare the wrong wr in the mens 200 free which should have been 1:43.14 so difference is now only 10.57 between male and female wr in that event and also 400IM male should also have been 4:05.18 I believe so difference is 21.18, mind you I think your comparing in your percentage explanation mens 800 free shiny suit to Ledeckys textile time.

And as for you saying that we cannot compare womens and mens times across different events and distances well as I said the whole thing might not make too much sense but I was just doing it for the fun of it but I was trying to compare same distances and in the same strokes though.

Craig, I understand completely your opinions about Hosszu and who you are comparing her to and why but as I stressed earlier I would rather be interested in why a 2:06.12 is so off the chart for a female athlete it being off 12.12 sec away from the male wr while in all other strokes in the same distance the ladies are closer to what men can do especially on free where difference is only 10.57, but still we would consider Hosszus wr much stronger than Schmitts time.
So yes I’d still be interested in what you think on that and just forget for a minute who the actual time was swum by.

Kristóf Skwarek


This season’s time differences for leading swimmers compared to runner ups in different disciplines:
Peaty 57.55 / 58.91 2.3%
Ledecky 8.06.68 / 8.18.14 2.3%
Hosszu 4.26.36 / 4.31.15 1.7%

Hosszu’s improvement of 1.5% of her time in a 5 year period is also not unheard of.

Apart from facts and figures you take on some moral issues that is usually avoided in a greeting article for a newly minted Olympic champion. Do you think that she is not a good icon for the sport? As We probably agree sport is universal in terms of competing against the self. It is also interesting why 400w im seems to be avoided historically by the most popolous “swimming nations”. E.g Klochkova was two times champ from the Ukraine in recent times.

Blah Blah

I agree w/Gregely in terms of the magnitude of the swims.. 2:06.12 is not as big an outlier as it is made out to be. However, I agree w/Craig (I think?) about Hosszu, and it’s so obvious what is going on it’s laughable.


I compared the fastest of the WRs. If I used the 800 textile WR for men, the percentage difference with Ledecky’s WR will be even smaller.


2:06.12 is still an outlier WR.

Remember in 2010 when we were all listing which of the rubber-suit WRs that would last longest?
The women 200 IM WR of 2:06.15 was definitely in the top 4 among women WR (after 200 fly and 200 free, and possibly on equal quality with 100 free).

The only possible way to make comparison is by comparing with another WR of closest characteristics (similar time, by women, of same distance),which is 200 back.

So here it is:
current 200 back WR is 2:04.06, set in 2012
In 1991, another Hungarian great, Egerszegi, broke the WR in 2:06.62
So, in 20 years, the 200 back WR has improved by 2.56 seconds, or 2.02%

Now let’s compare to 200 IM, the current WR is 2:06.12 set in 2015. In 1992, the WR was set by Lin Li in 2:11.65. The next WR holder was 2:09.72. Both WRs were considered very strong already, and set by the Chinese swimmers (you know what this means).
So, in 20 year, the 200 IM WR has improved by 5.53 seconds, or 4.2%

You now see how an outlier is the current 200 IM WR, its rate of improvement is more than twice the rate of improvement of 200 back WR (and we know both Franklin and Egerszegi are no less talented than Hosszu and Lin Li).


4:26.39 will last for decades, unless.. ahem.. another Hosszu appears.

Blah Blah

Rate of improvement is not a good measure necessarily.. it depends heavily on the makeup of the competitors. There really wasn’t a super dominant women’s IMer during the height of the shiny suit era with Rice on the decline into 2009, same with Coventry. Kukors was basically a nobody.. “nobodys” rarely break world records when the field is strong, except that freak men’s 200m breast record. Either way, don’t interpret any of this as suggesting that Hosszu’s performances are not ridiculously suspiscious.

Gergely Kun

As for her time of 4:26, well for someone who swims quite a few 4:30 and 4:31s in season is not that big a time drop to do at the most important meet of the year which also happens to be, obviously, the most important meet of the whole olympic cycle, does happen a lot to Hungarian swimmers who tend to be very olympic focused and I dont think you can be suspicous just looking at the time but what can arouse suspicion is much rather what she does and how she performs in season.

Craig Lord

Yes, Gergely, it is not just a singular moment (it is a whole series of things put together that make for an deniably unique profile) that raises questions – and by that I don’t necessarily mean the D word (which is simply a part of the language of modern sport these days,in general, as we can see from the number of positive tests at the tip of what may well be an iceberg of problems); I mean how precisely it has been done because a lot of peers, swimmers and coaches, do want to know and really cannot fathom it… that’s what they’re saying and some those questions an reasonable and legitimate. In the current climate, it has to be possible and is certainly desirable for all who want clean sport to continue to ask questions such as ‘how does swimmer A beaten or matched fairly consistently on major moments for several year on end get turned over by vast margins by swimmer B age peer even when swimmer A is one of the toughest nuts and hardest workers you could care to point to and backed up by sports science and much else’? If there is a legitimate reason, we should be hearing it. So far, many (swimmers and coaches) don’t believe they have heard that.

Craig Lord

Kristof, those kinds of comparisons are far less relevant than the internal comparisons to be found within the profiles of swimmers. Sorry but the arguments really do run much deeper. I edited out your suggestion about my view on Hungary – the mere suggestion of racism etc or dislike of nation is so ridiculously stupid that it merits only this one response to all – don’t go there, it is absolute hogwash and has no place on this website. As to icon: I think the world better off without icons, in general. I think the chances of being well perceived increase dramatically when you engage with people, when you explain, when you are open; and not when a coach reads the phrase ‘self-proclaimed Iron Lady’ and has a paddy fit for a naughty 3-year-old and refuses to speak to us “ever again”. The same story from many of my colleagues and officials and coaches and swimmers – and much besides (and that includes many Hungarians). That’s nothing to do with icons. Your last point: i think the populous nations have had lots of world-class medley swimmers down the years and continue to have world-class acts – clearly the record shows so.

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