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'Hooging' the limelight

The Rediff Team | August 19, 2004

Pieter van den Hoogenband of the Netherlands won the men's 100m freestyle event at the Athens Olympics on Wednesday to become only the third man in history to defend his title in swimming's premier event.

Pieter van den HoogenbandVan den Hoogenband equalled the feat of legendary American Johnny 'Tarzan' Weissmuller (Paris 1924 and Amsterdam 1928) and Russian Alexander 'Rocket' Popov (Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996) with a perfectly timed swim, hitting the front in the final two strokes.

The Flying Dutchman retained in a slick 48.17 seconds the title he had won in Sydney, just failing to beat the world and Olympic record he had set four years ago.

Van den Hoogenband had won the 100m and 200m freestyle events in Sydney, becoming the first man since Mark Spitz at Munich in 1972 to do so. He also won the 50m freestyle bronze, joining Matt Biondi (1988) as the only swimmer to earn medals in those three races at the same Olympiad.

Van den Hoogenband established himself as one of the world's top swimmers by winning six gold medals -- 50m, 100m, 200m, 4x100m, all freestyle, 4x100m medley, and 50m butterfly -- at the 1999 European Championships in Istanbul, Turkey.

Despite this, his performance in Sydney came as a surprise to many. In Athens, however, he was the established swimmer and he withstood the pressure from the younger challengers.

Pieter van den Hoogenband is our Olympian of the day.

Yesterday's Olympian: The Late Bloomer

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