Just a little something I put together after watching the race. I hope you like it.
The Flying Dutchman has Landed
Story by Aimee C.
Beijing—For many athletes, today is the first day of the rest of their Olympic lives. For others, like Olympic champion Pieter van den Hoogenband of the Netherlands, it is his last.
After coming in Fifth Place at the Men's 100m free final here at the Water Cube, van den Hoogenband announced his retirement just minutes following the final race of his career. "It's been a very long time, my fourth Olympics, my fourth final in the 100m free," he says. "It's impossible for me to go any further. This is the end of my career, I can't keep up with the younger guys."
Van den Hoogenband was on his way to making history, attempting to become the only man thus far to win the 100m free three times in a row. After falling short of his goal, he could not help but step aside and congratulate a new breed of swimmer in gold and silver medalists, Alain Bernard of France and Eamon Sullivan of Australia, explaining they were "...way too fast. It's a new generation and it's now time to step aside,'' says van den Hoogenband. "They did a great job. I'm from the previous generation with Alex Popov.''
While van den Hoogenband was clearly disappointed by his performance today, he was still able to find the silver lining amidst his lack of gold, "After eight long years and swimming three times in a row 47 seconds, this is under my best I did in Sydney," he says. "It's a big achievement for me personally. I'm realizing it now, because a few minutes ago I was very, very disappointed, because I was close to the bronze."
Since his first appearance at the Atlanta games in 1996, "The Flying Dutchman," has been a front runner of the men's swimming events, racking up a total of seven Olympic medals, three of them gold. He was also the world record holder in the 100m free for eight years, his time of 47.84, established during his win in 2000 at the Sydney games. Thanks to younger swimmers and new technology in suits, however, these days that time won't even qualify for the finals.
Throughout his Olympic career, you could see the fire in Pieter's eyes—a flame of sheer determination that burned even hotter underwater. Nothing was going to stop him on his way to the top of that podium, not even formidable rivals like Alex Popov, Ian Thorpe and who was back then a very young up-and-comer by the name of Michael Phelps. In 2004, Pieter van den Hoogenband again defended his title in Athens.
Today, however, that fire seemed a bit subdued, his eyes turned downward in a melancholy expression. The confidence that once lit up Pieter's face no longer appeared, and was replaced by a more humbled look perhaps giving way to the realization that, for him, it was now the end of an era.
Four long years have passed since PvdH, so nicknamed by his many fans, defended his crown in the "King's Race," four years during which much has transpired in the Dutchman's life including major back surgery, marrying his longtime girlfriend, former Olympic medley swimmer, Minouche Smit, and the birth of their first daughter, Daphne just over a year ago. The veteran swimmer, now 30, looks beyond the pool lanes to a future he is not entirely sure about, though perhaps therein lies his new adventure.
And while his world record-holding days are now history, Pieter van den Hoogenband can find comfort in knowing that he will forever hold a significant place in the books. Congratulations on a spectacular career, my friend. Your fans will miss you greatly.
[caption id="attachment_29" align="alignnone" width="248" caption="Pieter van den Hoogenband of the Netherlands waves goodbye to the Olympic crowd for the last time in his phenomenal swimming career.."][/caption]