By Martin de Wildt
AMSTERDAM, March 15. DUTCH Olympic champion and world record-holder Pieter van den Hoogenband gave notice that he'll be ready to rumble come Athens in August with some eye-opening early-season performances.
Swimming at the Flemmish Open in Antwerp, Belgium, on March 6, Hoogie stroked to a 22.60 win in the 50 free.
A day later he won the 100 free in a world-leading 48.96.
Last Saturday he also won the 200 free in 1.47.14, fourth fastest globally thus far this year behind Michael Phelps (1:46.47) and Aussies Grant Hackett and Ian Thorpe (both 1:46.65).
All races were swum unshaved, not fully rested and according to his coach, Jacco Verhaeren, at less than his current maximum ability.
Pieter plans on competing over the next three weekends in meets in Italy, Amsterdam and Eindhoven, where he will contest his three favorite freestyle events and perhaps a 50 or 100 butterfly.
Confirmed swimmers for Eindhoven and/or Amsterdam include Inge de Bruijn, Mark Foster, Igor Martchenko, Thomas Rupprath and Christian Keller.
The two Dutch Open meets are official qualification meets for the Olympics.
The National LC Championships (April 15-18) are the last chance for the Dutch swimmers to qualify.
(During the European Championship open places in the Olympic team may be filled, but no occupied places can be lost after the Nationals)