AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, May 27. THE World Championships just received a major blow, as Pieter Van Den Hoogenband announced today that he will bypass the competition in Montreal. The decision to miss the event hinges on the hernia operation van den Hoogenband recently underwent.
"I have decided not to go to the world championships in July," van den Hoogenband said in his newspaper column, printed in the Algemeen Dagblad. "Doctors told me I would be taking an irresponsible risk if I were to compete in that event after my hernia operation. The message is clear."
Van den Hoogenband was to be one of the headliners at the World Champs and was expected to battle Michael Phelps in the 100 and 200 free events. Now, Phelps becomes the overwhelming favorite in the 200 free, especially with Australia’s Ian Thorpe also missing the meet. Phelps, too, is in the mix for gold in the 100 free.
At the 2003 World Championships, van den Hoogenband claimed silver medals in the 100 and 200 freestyles and added a bronze in the 50 free. At last summer’s Olympic Games in Athens, van den Hoogenband won the 100 free and took silver in the 200. He won Olympic titles in the 100 and 200 freestyles in Sydney in 2000.
“It will be the first time since the European Championships in Vienna in 1995 that I won't be there for an international championship," he said. "I want to focus on the Olympics. In 2008, I want to win my fourth Olympic title. I want to be the first swimmer in history to win gold for the third consecutive time for the main prize, the 100 freestyle."