European Swimmers of the Early Millennium: Dutch Delight in Hoogie and Inky

Pieter Van Den Hoogenband no date by Bill Collins 3

European Swimmers of the Early Millennium: Dutch Delight in Pieter van den Hoogenband and Inge de Bruijn

With the COVID-19 pandemic canceling the most-important competitions of the year, Swimming World made the decision to suspend its Swimmer of the Year selections for 2020. There simply was not enough data to legitimately honor individuals as World, American, European, Pacific Rim and African Swimmers of the Year. Instead, we decided to name the Swimmers of the Millennium for the first 20 years (2000-19) of the 2000s.

Here are the European Swimmers of the Millennium:

By David Rieder

Pieter van den Hoogenband, Netherlands

Pieter van den Hoogenband was one of the world’s premier freestylers of the early 2000s, as he outmatched Ian Thorpe for the starring role at the 2000 Olympics and then continued to battle Thorpe for supremacy for years before crossing over into the Michael Phelps era of dominance.

Meanwhile, Adam Peaty has redefined speed in the 50 and 100 breast since 2014, lowering the world records from 26.67 to 25.95 in the 50 and from 58.46 to a mind-boggling 56.88 in the 100. Peaty also has won three straight World titles in both events as well as the 2016 Olympic gold in the 100 breast. And Laszlo Cseh was, perhaps, the greatest male swimmer to never win an Olympic gold medal, but he won six medals over four Olympic Games, along with two World titles and 13 World Championship medals in an amazing six different events.

Those three men have never and will never race head-to-head, and the primes of their respective careers did not coincide, so the Male European Swimmer of the Millennium’s First 20 Years marked the only chance for Europe’s three premier swimmers of the past 20 years to be stacked up. The winner is van den Hoogenband, for his years of sustained excellence in the freestyle events.

For van den Hoogenband, nicknamed “The Flying Dutchman,” the 2000 Olympics in Sydney was his second Games, but he had just broken through one year earlier when he won six gold medals at the European Championships. In Sydney, he came up against young Australian star Ian Thorpe in the 200 free on the meet’s second day, and after breaking Thorpe’s world record in the semifinals with a 1:45.35, van den Hoogenband pulled away from Thorpe in the final, silencing the Australian home crowd, winning Olympic gold and matching his world record.

A day later, van den Hoogenband shattered the world record in the 100 free, his 47.84 semifinal time crushing Michael Klim’s three-day-old mark of 48.17, and he went on to win gold in the final. The 100 free world record would last until the polyurethane suit era of 2008, when Alain Bernard broke it at the European Championships. Van den Hoogenband left Sydney with four medals, including bronzes in both the 50 free and 800 free relay.

While he never won a World title, van den Hoogenband would win medals in the 50, 100 and 200 free at both the 2001 and 2003 World Championships. Thorpe regained the 200 free world record in 2001 with an incredible 1:44.06, but van den Hoogenband would break 1:45 a year later with a 1:44.89 at the 2002 European Championships. Also nicknamed “Hoogie,” he returned to the gold medal podium at the 2004 Olympics, where he defended his title in the 100 free and also won silver medals in the 200 free (behind Thorpe) and in the 400 free relay, where he posted a split of 46.79, then the fastest in history, to edge out the United States.

In the twilight of his career, van den Hoogenband took silver in the 200 free at the 2007 World Championships, the race where Michael Phelps broke Thorpe’s 200 free world record and became the first man under 1:44. A year later, van den Hoogenband finished fifth in the 100 free in his final Olympics, and in the process, he lowered his eight-year-old best time (the previous world record) with a 47.68.

2. Adam Peaty, Great Britain (1.5)
3. Laszlo Cseh, Hungary (0.5)
(First-place votes in parentheses)

Inge de Bruijn, Netherlands

Selecting a winner for the Female European Swimmer of the Millennium’s first 20 years proved to be a tough task since between 2000 and 2019, many different European women reigned as the world’s best in their events.

The long list of candidates included the Netherlands’ Inge de Bruijn, who won three individual Olympic golds at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and another four years later; Ukraine’s Yana Klochkova, the 200 IM-400 IM double gold medalist in both 2000 and 2004; Italy’s Federica Pellegrini, who has been one of the world’s top 200 freestylers since 2004, having won four World Championship titles in the event; a pair of 2008 double Olympic gold medalists and world-record breakers in German sprint star Britta Steffen and British distance ace Rebecca Adlington; and two recent stars, Hungarian IM dynamo Katinka Hosszu and Sweden’s free and fly speedster Sarah Sjostrom.

Inge de Bruijn

Inge De Bruijn – Photo Courtesy – Swimming World Magazine

After weighing the résumés of all candidates, the nod went to de Bruijn, who was, perhaps, the only swimmer on the list ever to claim the title as the world’s undisputed best female swimmer for any length of time. Klochkova, with four gold medals at each of the Olympics and World Championships, was second, while Hosszu, who won three Olympic gold medals in 2016 (400 IM, 100 back, 200 IM) and has won nine World titles in her career (400 IM in 2009 before sweeping the 200 and 400 IM at each World Championships in 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019), placed third.

De Brujin actually swam in her first Olympics in 1992, but in 2000, she emerged as a dominant force in the sprint events. In late May of that year, she set or tied world records in the 50 free, 100 free, 50 fly and 100 fly, and she would go on to set an amazing 11 world records in 2000 among those events. The last of her records came as she raced to Olympic gold at Sydney in the 50 free (24.13), 100 free (53.77) and 100 fly (56.61), and she also helped the Netherlands to a silver medal in the 400 free relay.

De Bruijn then won three gold medals (50 free, 100 free, 50 fly) at the 2001 World Championships, and she defended the 50 free and 50 fly golds in 2003. Her final Olympics came in 2004 in Athens, and she again won four medals: She defended her gold in the 50 free, took silver behind Jodie Henry in the 100 free, and earned bronze in the 100 fly and 400 free relay. During her stellar career, de Brujin was named Swimming World’s Female World and European Swimmer of the Year on two occasions, in 2000 and 2001—becoming the only European woman ever to win both awards multiple times during the past 20 years.

1. INGE DE BRUIJN, Netherlands (3)
2. Yana Klochkova, Ukraine (1)
3. Katinka Hosszu, Hungary (1.5)
(First-place votes in parentheses)
Other first-place votes:
Sarah Sjostrom, Sweden (2.5)
Federica Pellegrini (1)


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