Australia is my first home, the Netherlands my second. Both countries produce some amazingly fast and talented swimmers, and just over the past week both have held Olympic swimming qualification tournaments – a big deal for the competitors and coaches alike. In our ever connected world, I’m lucky enough to follow the event in Australia online, and even luckier to attend the one here – the Eindhoven Swim Cup, which began last Wednesday, 6 April, and wrapped up on Sunday evening.
My two homes have seen some fantastic swimming rivalries over the years, most notably between ‘The Dutch Dolphin’ - Pieter van den Hoogenband, and ‘Thorpedo’- Ian Thorpe. Who could forget the insanely competitive semi finals (where Pieter broke Ian’s world record) and final of the 200m men’s freestyle at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, with the Dutchy edging out the Aussie to claim gold. In 2004 it was Thorpe’s time to win that gold medal and break the Olympic record in the process. In these two Olympic Games, Ian Thorpe hauled 9 medals and Pieter van den Hoogenband bagged 7. They were two greats of the pool who always displayed sportsmanship and respect for each other, and it’s no surprise they both have aquatic centres named after them.
Sunday evening at the Swim Cup featured young star Maarten Brzokowski and the more experienced Sebastiaan Verschuren in the very same event. This fantastic race made the crowd come alive. Maarten clocked in first place with 1.47.17 and Sebastiaan in second with 1.47.20. It was so close, and so exciting from beginning to end. On the other side of the world, two Australian men, Cameron McEvoy and Thomas Fraser-Holmes, also had an extremely thrilling and very close 200m final, so close that it was a dead heat for first place. Here’s hoping this marks the beginning of another great Dutch – Australian rivalry!
The women have long battled it out as well, especially in the 4x100m relay. Australia got the gold and the Netherlands the bronze in 2004 while 2008 saw the reverse! In 2012 the competition got even closer with gold for the Aussies and silver for the Dutch. It’s sure to be a great competition again when Rio rolls around.
Of course, one of the current women’s champions is Eindhoven swimmer, Ranomi Kromowidjojo who swam a blistering 100m freestyle semi final on Saturday with fellow superstar Femke Heemskerk hot on her heels. The two swimmers didn’t disappoint in the final on Sunday night with both well within the qualifying time for Rio. It was only shortly after this that I’d heard the Australian sister act of Cate and Bronte Campbell also qualified for the games in this distance. I cannot wait to see these fantastic four females fight it out in August.
Of course there are many more champions from both countries – way too many to mention! I wonder if it has anything to do with esteemed coach Jacco Verhaeren? He has guided a number of Dutch swimmers to the top – Pieter van den Hoogenband, Inge de Bruijn, Marleen Veldhuis, Inge Dekker and Ranomi Kromowidjojo to name just a few. Lucky for Australia, he became the head coach of the national team there in 2013, and has been making a huge impact ever since. My second home’s loss, it seems, is my first home’s gain.
The Eindhoven Swim Cup and its counterpart in Australia have proven to be an impressive prelude to the 2016 Olympic Games. I’ll be watching the swimming events with baited breath. Bring it on!