His mother, Astrid Verner, is a former 800 meter freestyle silver medalist of the European Championships. His father Cees is the team doctor with the PSV Eindhovan professional football team and a FINA doctor. Astrid became coach of the Dutch swimming team and Cees provided the foundation to secure a financial base to keep the team operating.
Pieter van den Hoogenband was well on his way to become Holland’s greatest male swimmer alongside female swimmer Inge de Bruin. His international breakthrough came at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics when at 18, he exceeded expectations by finishing fourth in the 100 meter and 200 meter freestyle.
After winning six gold medals at the 1999 European Championships, he was one of the favorites at the 2000 Olympic Games. But in Sydney, he faced hometown favorite Ian Thorpe in the 200 and two time Russian Olympic Champion Alexander Popov in the 100 meter freestyle. “Hoogie” beat them both in world record time. His 100 meter freestyle record of 47.84 stood for a phenomenal eight years, longer than any other swimmers since Johnny Weissmuller in 1924. Pieter earned bronze medals in the 50 meter and 4 x 200 meter freestyle. At the 2004 Olympics in Athens, he won another gold medal in the 100 meter freestyle and silver in the 200 meter freestyle and 4 x 100 meter freestyle. In 2008, by finishing 5th in the 100 meter freestyle he became the first-ever swimmer to make the finals in four consecutive Olympics in the same event.
Throughout his career he received many prestigious awards, the most distinctive being World Swimmer of the Year in 2000.