By Oene Rusticus
GEELONG, Australia, February 23. A total of 19 Dutch swimmers qualified for the World Championships in Melbourne. Most of them are training in the new National Training Centres in Amsterdam and Eindhoven, where the most talented swimmers in the country gathered this season to train in the best facilities.
Olympic champion Pieter van den Hoogenband leads the men's squad, where he aims for his first world title. He missed Montreal 2005 because of a back injury, but the boss is back. The Dutch team set camp in Geelong, just an hour of Melbourne, where the Australians still remember Hoogie from his battles with Ian Thorpe in Sydney.
The women's team is lead by Inge Dekker and Marleen Veldhuis, both swimmers set great times at the Flanders Swimming Cup in Antwerp last month. Dekker clocked 57.90 in the 100 butterfly, while Veldhuis sprinted to 24.37 and 53.80 in the freestyle events.
The freestyle relays of The Netherlands proved to be successful in the past, but this year the men's 400 freestyle relay is not entered. Sprint ace Johan Kenkhuis retired and left an empty spot in the team that hasn't been filled yet. The women's 400 freestyle however is stronger than ever.
Team: Marleen Veldhuis, Inge Dekker, Hinkelien Schreuder, Chantal Groot, Femke Heemskerk, Ranomi Kromowidjojo, Linda Bank, Manon van Rooijen, Pieter van den Hoogenband, Mitja Zastrow, Olaf Wildeboer, Robin van Aggele, Bas van Velthoven, Joost Reijns. Jacco Verhaeren (coach), Martin Truijens (coach)
Open Water team: Maarten van der Weijden, Alex Schelvis, Sebastiaan Reijnen, Evelien Sohl, Linsy Heister, Edith van Dijk (coach), Wim Schelvis (coach)