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SYDNEY 2000 / SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES | SWIMMING

Outsiders Crash Australians' Splashy Shindig

Swimming: Van den Hoogenband and Malchow set records, but host nation celebrates two more gold medals.

September 20, 2000|LISA DILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SYDNEY, Australia — In the quest for world swimming domination, the defenses were dropped long enough to let an interloper spoil the all-Australian celebration Tuesday night at the Sydney International Aquatic Center.

Pieter van den Hoogenband of the Netherlands is making this a habit at the Olympics, taking away the world records of Australian stars Ian Thorpe and Michael Klim after four days of competition. The weary Van den Hoogenband broke Klim's world record in the semifinals of the 100-meter freestyle, going 47.84 seconds. Klim had held the mark only since Saturday, going 48.18 on the opening leg of the 400 freestyle relay for the victorious Australians.

The Dutch star's latest accomplishment came only one day after he had tied his own record in the 200 freestyle, upsetting Thorpe. Thorpe had held the world record until Van den Hoogenband lowered it in the semifinals.

In between Susie O'Neill's victory in the 200 freestyle and the Australian men's world-record performance in the 800 freestyle relay, there was room for another non-Australian cameo.

American Tom Malchow, who seems to be the least-known world-record holder, won his first gold medal, breaking his own Olympic record in the 200 butterfly. Monday, he broke the Olympic record in the prelims and again in the semifinals.

The 24-year-old St. Paul, Minn., native now has a bookend to the world record he set in the 200 butterfly in June. Malchow, the silver medalist in this event in 1996, turned in a smart, strategic performance, comparing the race to a "chess game."

He was fifth at the 50, third at the 100 and finished in 1:55.35, only 0.41 ahead of Denys Sylant'yev of Ukraine. Justin Norris of Australia was third and 15-year-old American Michael Phelps fifth.

"He followed the script, not to go out faster than 55.5, and he was 55.7. It was a very good split," said his coach, Jon Urbanchek. "In the 200-meter butterfly, you have to control the front end.

"He hugs the water like a fish. He's swimming very much fishlike. He was all arms and legs at the beginning. Finally, his torso is catching up with his long arms and legs. He used to be really uncoordinated."

Said Malchow, who bettered his own Olympic record: "I stuck with my wits. When you're a competitive person, it's hard to sit back."

That was the way the 17-year-old Thorpe tried to reclaim his world record from Van den Hoogenband. On the opening leg of the relay, he went after the individual record, and failed. But he gave his teammates a sizable lead and they came away with a world record in the relay, of 7:07.05, eclipsing the mark of 7:08.79 set last year by Australia.

"I just wanted to go out there and get the position for the relay team, and that just happened to be 46 [1:46.03]," said Thorpe, who has three gold medals and a silver and may still swim in the 400 medley relay.

"It would have been nicer to go out faster than that, but it didn't happen. Another gold medal for Australia--that's great."

The American team, anchored by Klete Keller, won the silver in 7:12.64, as Keller held off a strong challenge from Van den Hoogenband. The Netherlands took the bronze largely because of his anchor leg of 1:44.88, moving up from fifth after the third leg.

"It was very tough," Van den Hoogenband said of the world-record turnaround. "I only had six hours sleep because of running around from here to there. I am very tired."

The impressive field for the 100 freestyle final features Van den Hoogenband and Klim and another former record holder, Alexander Popov of Russia, who is the defending two-time Olympic champion, and two Americans, Neil Walker and 1996 silver medalist Gary Hall Jr.

"It's amazing," Walker said of the latest Van den Hoogenband record. "I can't even fathom how fast that is."

Hall, who had the sixth-fastest qualifying time of 49.13, was asked if the Dutch star could be beaten.

"Well, I think that he can," Hall said. "I tell you what, I'm really impressed with that swim tonight. It's nothing short of incredible. It is incredible.

"That was wonderful. It was obvious what his game plan was, to drag off me for the entire race and then whiz by me with about five meters to go. It obviously works. So where does that leave me?"

Well, Hall has plenty of famous company: Popov, Klim and Thorpe.

What is even more intimidating is that Van den Hoogenband and his coaches think he can take it out even faster, perhaps a tenth of a second. The Dutch star simply wants to get some sleep one of these days and maybe even have some fun outside the pool.

"I want to go out and get drunk, but we have a few days of competition left yet, so I will have to wait," he said.

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