By Phillip Whitten
DUBLIN, Ireland, December 13. HOLLAND'S Pieter van den Hoogenband, a double Olympic gold medalist in Sydney, just missed breaking Alex Popov's nine year-old world record of 46.74 seconds in the 100 meter freestyle at the European Short Course Championships in Dublin tonight. But he swam history's third fastest time — 46.81 — to win the event for the second time, his first victory coming in 1999.
The Dutchman, who owns the long course world record, played Giant Killer in Sydney, toppling Popov as Olympic 100 meter freestyle champion and beating Ian Thorpe in the 200 freestyle before the Aussie's home crowd. But tonight he slapped the water in frustration at being denied the world mark after coming so close.
Van den Hoogenband, who tied the championship record when he clocked 47.15 in Friday's semifinals and bettered that time in the final, was clearly going for the record from the start. He took the first 50 out in 22.36 — 34-hundredths under Popov's record pace — but could not bring it home as fast as the Russian had in 1994.
Later, Hoogie reflected philosophically: "My goal for these Europeans was to go under 47 seconds for the first time," he said. "Yesterday I achieved a personal best (47.15) in the semis. This is great motivation for the Olympic season."
Italians Filippo Magnini (47.32) and Christian Galenda (47.77) took the silver and bronze medals.
Russia's Yuri Prilukov won his second gold medal of the meet, cruising to victory in the 1500 meters freestyle and breaking the European record of 14:35.06 he set a year ago. The 19 year-old distance ace trailed Britain's Graeme Smith for the first 750 meters, took the lead at the turn and then steadily pulled away to touch in 14:31.82 with a huge margin of almost 11 seconds.
Smith followed in 14:42.64 while Massi Rosolino, who tied Prilukov in the 400 on Thursday, finished third in 14:47.34, swimming in an earlier heat.
The top 10 swimmers broke 15 minutes.
Joanne Jackson and Rebecca Cooke fashioned a one-two British sweep of the women's 400 meter freestyle with the 17 year-old Jackson taking a one-second lead at the 200 (2:02.01), then holding off a furious challenge by Cooke. Jackson touched in a national record 4:04.00, just ahead of the favored Cooke, who swam a PR 4:04.80.
The exciting five-woman race came down to the wire, with Russia's Regina Stych and Spain's Melissa Caballero finishing in a dead heat for the bronze at 4:05.00. Hungary's Eva Risztov, who set a CR of 4:01.95 last year, was fifth in 4:05.13.
Alison Sheppard then came through to post another victory for a resurgent Britain, taking the 100 IM in 1:01.19. Fourth at the 50, Sheppard used her powerful freestyle to sprint past Slovenia's Alenka Kejzar (1:01.29) and Hanna Shcherba of Belarus (1:01.40).
Ilona Hlavackova took the Czech Republic's first gold, out-sprinting defending champion Antje Buschshulte to win the 50 back in 27.54. Buschshulte followed in 27.54 with Denmark's Louise Ornstedt picking up the bronze in 27.56.
France's ageless Franck Esposito became the oldest champion here, as the 33 year-old WR-holder in the 200 fly won in a CR 1:51.98, almost a full second better than Stephen Parry's old CR of 1:52.91. There was never any doubt about the outcome of this race, as Espo took immediate command, split 53.51 at the 100 and never gave his competitors an opening.
Britain's Parry followed in 1:53.01 with Poland's Pawel Korzenowski third in 1:53.68.
In a tight, five-way battle, Sweden took the women's 200 medley relay in 1:48.79, about three-tenths off the Euro and Championship record set by a Swedish team three years ago.
The four-day meet winds up tomorrow.