Dutch eye return to former glory in Paris

May 22, 2024 12:03 pm

[Source: Reuters]

It has been nearly a quarter of a century since Inge de Bruijn and Pieter van den Hoogenband ruled the pool at the 2000 Sydney Olympics but a new wave of Dutch swimmers may be set to make their mark at the Paris Games.

Multiple European champion Marrit Steenbergen has emerged as a possible successor to sprint icon De Bruijn, who took Sydney by storm with gold medals in the 50 and 100 metres freestyle, and the 100m butterfly.

Steenbergen has set a slew of Dutch swimming records this year, and upset Hong Kong’s Siobhan Haughey to win the 100 metres freestyle title at the World Championships in Doha.

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The 24-year-old followed up by beating her Dutch record in the 200m individual medley with a time of two minutes 8.86 seconds at an Olympic qualifying meet in Eindhoven last month.

The time is some way off Australian Kaylee McKeown’s year-best mark of 2:06.99 but Dutch coaches see further improvement to come.

On the same night as Steenbergen’s 100m freestyle triumph in Doha, her compatriot Tes Schouten claimed the 200m breaststroke gold to mark herself as a medal threat in Paris.

The 23-year-old Schouten is also a chance in the 100m breaststroke at Paris, having taken silver behind China’s world champion Tang Qianting at Doha.

Steenbergen and Schouten have added depth to a Dutch team that will hope for more medals from men’s breaststroke specialist Arno Kamminga and women’s marathon swimmer Sharon van Rouwendaal.

“It has been a while since we have had medal chances in so many events,” Netherlands coach Patrick Pearson told Reuters in Doha.

“We are excited with the improvements we have seen, not just from swimmers who are targeting Paris, but also for the future.”

Kamminga will race in the 100 and 200m breaststroke in Paris, three years after being runner-up to Briton Adam Peaty in both events at the Tokyo Olympics.

Van Rouwendaal could etch her name in the record books with a third consecutive medal in the 10km open water swim, having taken gold at the 2016 Rio Games and silver at Tokyo.

The 30-year-old showed she remains a force by winning the 10km world title in Doha.

In the 2000 Olympics, De Bruijn and Van den Hoogenband took five gold medals between them to put the Netherlands third on the swimming medal table behind the dominant United States and hosts Australia.

The Dutch, who collected three medals and no golds in Tokyo, have not come close to matching their 2000 haul since but they are hopeful of seeing orange tracksuits on the podium in Paris.

“It is nice there is some talk about Dutch swimming again,” Pearson said.