TOKYO – Anna Olasz swam 6.2 miles Wednesday at the Olympics, finishing 2.3 seconds off the medals podium.
But the 27-year-old Hungarian, who swam in college at Arizona State, couldn’t have been more satisfied with the typically dreaded fourth-place Olympic finish.
That’s because going into the last of seven laps, she was eighth in a lead pack and believed that was likely where she would finish in her second Olympics.
Instead, on a hot morning with temperatures in the upper 80s, Olasz moved ahead of both U.S. open water swimmers and two others over the final 1.4K at Odaiba Marine Park. She improved from 14th at Rio 2016 to fourth in 1:59.34.8, with a stroke or two of Australian Kareena Lee for the bronze medal.
“I love when others are dying and I’m beating them,” she said. “That’s always my motivation.”
Only 7.1 seconds separated the top seven in a 25-woman 10K field. Brazil’s Ana Cunha took gold and 2016 gold medalist Sharon van Rouwendaal added silver to her collection.
“I was second at Europeans, I won the qualification race and I was fourth at the Olympics,” Olasz said. “I could have never imagined I’m going to achieve such things. I’m really, really happy. I’m not going to think about I could have won Europeans, I could have won a medal here. It’s just more than I imagined so I’m just trying to be happy for what I achieved.”
Olasz was added to the 2016 field less than a month before the race after a Russian swimmer was among those banned from the Rio Games for previous doping violations. She was 11th at the 2015 World Championships but initially left out for Rio because of a limit on the number of swimmers per country.
This time, she secured her place in Tokyo by winning an Olympic qualifying race in Portugal in June ahead of Spain’s Paula Ruiz, Canada’s Kate Sanderson and Great Britain’s Alice Dearing among others.
She beat all of them again in Tokyo and like at Europeans was right on the heels of van Rouwendaal, now the first two-time Olympic open water medalist.
“I’m still in love with sport,” said Olasz, who completed her ASU career in 2017. “The whole COVID situation had me realize how much I want to do this and regain my confidence. I could rest more than I did before and I kind of re-set. I needed that in order to do the things I did now.”
She plans to swim at least one more year and that could extend to another Olympic run for Paris 2024. “I never thought I’m going to be swimming at 28 but I love open water so why stop now.”
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