Hoogie Sparkles on Day One of Dutch Nationals,

By Oene Rusticus

AMERSFOORT, Holland, April 18. DOUBLE Olympic champion
and former world record holder, Pieter van den Hoogenband, was the crowd puller the first day of the Dutch long course Nationals in Amersfoort.

Hoogie has already swum several time cuts for the European Championships in Berlin, but nevertheless, he wanted to show the nation that he is still the best freestyler in Europe. Though he did not taper for this meet, he led the field in the 200m freestyle from the very first stroke. After splitting 51.27 at the 100, he swam 1:46.86, just a bit more than a second slower than his PR and Olympic record. His thumb up after the race showed his satisfaction.

"We trained on endurance at a training camp in Spain. This race was primarily meant to see if I could hold the right frequency the last length. I’m rather satisfied with my time." We’ll see in August if he can threaten Ian Thorpe's global mark.

The talk of the day was the presence of Mitja Zastrow from Germany. Zastrow decided earlier this year to leave Germany because of troubles with the German Swim Association, and to become Dutch. He aims to become a member of the freestyle relay in Athens 2004, but he is also very talented at the backstroke.

Zastrow He just missed qualifying for Sydney in the 100 back by 0.01. His naturalization hasn’t been finalized yet, but he is competing already for PSV Eindhoven. His gracious backstroke start and turn technique are examples for the Dutch backstrokers, so it was not surprisingly that he won this event. With 57.26 (27.83) he finished just ahead of specialists Sander Ganzevles of the pro team from Amsterdam (57.42) and Klaas Erik Zwering of the pro team from Eindhoven (57.48).

Breaststroker Thijs van Valkengoed won the 200 breast in 2.17.16 and qualified for Berlin. After winning his second title at this event at the European Youth Championships, he came down with an infection that kept him from swimming fast for quite a few months. Back in training only since February, he was very pleased with his qualification for Berlin. His team-mate from Amsterdam, Benno Kuipers, who finaled at this event at the 1998 Worlds in Perth, didn’t make it this time. His 2.17.56 wasn’t enough, but it wouldn’t matter anyway because he got DQ’d.

Marleen Veldhuis surprisingly won the women's 200 freestyle. Veldhuis, also member of the National Waterpolo team, swam 2:02.87 after splitting 59.19. With this time she secured a position on the Dutch 4x200m free relay team that will compete in Berlin.

These Nationals are also the last possibility to qualify for the European Youth Championships in Linz (Austria) this summer. Lenneke van Schaik, who will lead the female squad, impressed today with a National Youth record in the 100m backstroke. Van Schaik (15) won the final of the backstroke in 1:04.01.

The youngest pro swimmer in the Netherlands, Robin van Aggele, is the major male swimmer of Head Age Group Coach André Cats. Van Aggele (17) is an all-around swimmer and has qualified already for several freestyle and IM events. With 16:04.48 at the 1500 freestyle he won the event in another qualifying time.

Olympic Champion Inge de Bruijn cancel her scheduled appearance here because of a flu she got at a training camp in Spain. Next week she flies back to Portland, Oregon, to prepare for the EC’s with her American coach Paul Bergen. In addition, Mark Veens, a potential swimmer for the freestyle relay in Berlin, won’t swim here. He is still suffering from a shoulder injury. For him this season is over.