Krisztina Egerszegi (HUN)
Honor Swimmer (2001)
FOR THE RECORD: 1988 OLYMPIC GAMES: gold (200m backstroke), silver (100m backstroke); 1992 OLYMPIC GAMES: gold (100m backstroke, 200m backstroke, 400m IM); 1996 OLYMPIC GAMES: gold (200m backstroke), bronze (400m IM); TWO WORLD RECORDS: 100m backstroke, 200m backstroke; 1991 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (100m backstroke, 200m backstroke); 1994 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: silver (200m backstroke); 1989 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: silver (400m IM);1991 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (100m backstroke, 200m backstroke, 400m IM); 1993 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (100m backstroke, 200m backstroke, 200m butterfly, 400m IM); 1995 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (200m backstroke, 400m IM).
Only one other athlete had ever won an Olympic gold medal in each of three successive Olympic Games (Dawn Fraser of Australia in 1956, 1960, 1964, 100m freestyle) when Krisztina Egerszegi did it in the 200m backstroke in 1988, 1992 and 1996. Not only did she win the Olympic 200m backstroke an unprecedented three times, she also won gold medals in the 100m backstroke and 400m I.M. In addition, she started her string of victories as the youngest swimming Olympic gold medal winner of all time at the age of fourteen.
Krisztina’s international competition began at the top at the 1988 Seoul Olympics where she won the 200m backstroke gold in Olympic Record time of 2:09.29 over Katherin Zimmerman and Cornelia Sirch of the German Democratic Republic. She placed second in the 100m backstroke to Kristin Otto (GDR). For the next six years, she would lose the 200m backstroke race only once. This occurred at the 1989 European Championships in Bonn, when Dagmar Hase (GDR) and Otto out touched her in the 200m and 100m backstrokes respectively. It was the last year that the East German athletes were to swim under the banner of their country.
For the next three European Championships in Athens (1991), Sheffield (1993) and Vienna (1995), Krisztina won every race she entered which included the 100m and 200m backstroke, 200m butterfly and 400m individual medley. She became the master of the new, no-hand touch, the 1991 backstroke turn-rule change which eliminated the requirement of swimmers touching the wall with their hand on every turn. In 1991 at the European Championships, she broke Ina Kleber’s (GDR) 100m backstroke World Record which had been set 7 years earlier in 1984 and Betsy Mitchell’s (USA) 200m backstroke World Record set in 1986. Her 200m backstroke World Record of 2:06.62 set in Athens in 1991 still stands today, 10 years later.
Krisztina became the “Queen” of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics when she was the only female athlete to win three individual events – 100m and 200m backstroke and 400m I.M.. She was only the third swimmer in history behind Debbie Meyer (USA)(1968) and Janet Evans (USA)(1988) to win three individual events at one Olympic Games. Her 200m backstroke time remains an Olympic Record today. Four years later in 1996, at 22 years of age, she returned for another Olympics in Atlanta winning the gold for the third time in the 200m backstroke and a bronze in the 400m individual medley.
Her national team coach, Tamas Szechy, says she was a hard worker. She was Swimming World’s World Female Swimmer of the Year (1991) and European Female Swimmer of the Year (1990, 1991, 1992).
Krisztina never liked to predict her future, but through her competitiveness, tenacity, love for her sport and five Olympic gold medals later, she made her own place in it.