Katinka Hosszu (Getty Images)
Rio de Janeiro - The Iron Lady finally has her Olympic medal.
The best one of all.
After repeated frustration on the sport's biggest stage, Katinka
Hosszu of Hungary crushed the world record in the women's 400m individual
medley on Saturday night to make the first Olympic medal of her career gold.
Also on a late night of swimming to kick off the Rio Games,
Japan's Kosuke Hagino ended American dominance in the men's 400m individual
medley, while Australia's Mack Horton took down Sun Yang of China without
giving his bitter rival so much as a passing glance.
Hosszu, known as the "Iron Lady" for her gruelling
schedule, led all the way and touched in 4:26.36 seconds, easily eclipsing the
record of 4:28.43 held by China's Ye Shiwen.
Hosszu had time to turn toward the scoreboard and savour her
triumph before Maya DiRado of the United States touched in 4:31.15 to take the
silver medal. Mireia Belmonte Garcia of Spain claimed the bronze in 4:32.39.
This triumph was especially sweet for Hosszu, who had captured
nine medals - including five golds - at the world championships but never won
an Olympic medal. She defiantly pumped her chest before breaking into a huge
Elizabeth Beisel of the US, the silver medallist at the 2012
London Games, finished sixth.
Hagino took gold for Japan by holding off Chase Kalisz of the
United States, becoming the first non-American to win the gruelling event since
Hagino and Japanese teammate Daiya Seto raced away from the field
on the butterfly and backstroke legs before Kalisz began to close the gap. The
American surged past Seto on the breaststroke and set his sights on Hagino.
But the Japanese swimmer, who settled for bronze in this event at
the 2012 London Games, held on to win in 4:06.05. Kalisz settled for the silver
in 4:06.75, while Seto grabbed the bronze in 4:09.71.
Ryan Lochte was the defending Olympic champion, but he finished
third at the US trials and didn't event qualify. Michael Phelps was the
champion in 2004 and 2008, but he's dropped the 400 IM from his program. Tom
Dolan was a back-to-back champion in 1996 and 2000.
Tamas Darnyi of Hungary won gold at the 1992 Barcelona Games.
Horton's victory came at the expense of Sun, the defending Olympic
champion. The Aussie grabbed the lead for good on the next-to-last lap and held
off the hard-charging Chinese star, who won both the 400 and 1500 free at the
2012 London Games.
What happened after the race was even more dramatic.
The bad blood between the two was on display for all to see as
Horton celebrated after the race without even acknowledging the runner-up. Sun
made a move as though he wanted to congratulate Horton, but the winner looked
the other way.
They would up climbing out of the pool side by side but never
looked at each other. Horton's winning time was 3:41.55, just 13-hundredths of
a second ahead of Sun. Italy's Gabriele Detti rallied past American Conor
Dwyer, the top qualifier in the prelims, to take the bronze in 3:43.49.
After the prelims of the men's 400 freestyle, Horton was asked
about a reported incident between the two at the practice pool earlier in the
week. The Aussie said Sun "splashed me to say hello, and I didn't respond
because I don't have time for drug cheats."
Sun served a three-month suspension for using a banned stimulant
Horton and Sun finally gave each other a begrudging handshake on
the medal stand.
The finals began an uncharacteristically late start that allowed the
event to be televised live in prime time to the United States.
But the Americans were shut out of the golds through the first
three events, with only the women's 4x100 freestyle relay left on the first
night. The Australians were heavily favoured to win that event, led by sisters
Cate and Bronte Campbell.