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Veldhuis, Hoogie Star at Grand Prix Meet in Holland -- March 24, 2003

By Oene Rusticus

DORDRECHT, Holland, March 24. THE cream of Dutch swimming gathered in Dordrecht this weekend for the first of three Grand Prix long course meets.

National team members had just returned from a three-week altitude training camp in Flagstaff, Arizona, earlier in the week, but performed quite reasonably. These meets and the Dutch Nationals at the end of April, will be used as qualifiers for the World Championships this summer.

Olympic star Pieter van den Hoogenband only participated in the 50 fly, but even in this event he made a big impression. With his 24.80 second winning effort, he outswam all of his competitors including
Joris Keizer, the bronze medalist at the Hong Kong SC Worlds, who clocked 25.05 here and Ewout Holst, sixth at the Fukuoka World Championships (25.11 here).

Hoogie is now seriously thinking of adding the 100 fly to his World Championship program: "It’s an event in which you have to continue going with a lot of pain in your body, and that suits me well lately. But the most important reason is that it keeps me motivated in training for the other events," he told reporters.

On the women’s side, we saw some excellent performances in the free and fly by Chantal Groot and Marleen Veldhuis. Groot took home the 100 fly (1:00.95), and placed second in the 50 fly (27.86) and 100 free (57.02) and finished third in the 50 free (26.20). From April on, Veldhuis will be training with her new teammates at TopSwimming Amsterdam. In preparation for the Worlds and Olympics, Veldhuis moves to the nation's capital to train with this professional team in the best facility of the country.

Twenty-three year-old Marleen Veldhuis has made dramatic improvements the last year and had no problem winning the 50 free (25.86), 100 free (56.05), and 50 fly (27.76). The only female swimmer from the Philips pro swim team from Eindhoven, Hinkelien Schreuder, swam a fast 100 back in 1:03.20, a good time early in the season.

The freestyle for men showed some nice performances. Arnold van Bavel (1:5240) just won the 200 over Martijn Zuijdweg (1:52.65). The field in the 100 was close, with the top six competitors finishing within six-tenths of a second of each other. Ewout Holst finished first in 51.38, just before Gijs Damen (51.46) and Zuijdweg (51.56).

Stefan Aartsen took the 200 fly in 2:02.82, but PSV swimmer Ralf Mertens is the man to watch for the future (2:03.50). He has made significant progress in the last year.