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Hendrika Mastenbroek, 84; Dutch Swimmer Won 3 Gold Medals in Berlin

November 08, 2003|From Staff and Wire Reports

Hendrika "Rie" Mastenbroek, a Dutch swimmer who won three gold medals and a silver medal at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, has died. She was 84.

In failing health after a recent stroke, Mastenbroek died Thursday of heart failure in a hospital in Rotterdam, the Dutch Swimming Assn. announced.

Born in Rotterdam, Mastenbroek took up swimming at a very early age. When she was 11, she was discovered by "Ma" Braun, a coach who had trained other Olympic swimmers.

Braun imposed a tough training regimen on Mastenbroek, and the young swimmer responded by winning three golds and a silver at the 1934 European championships.

Two years later, at the 1936 Olympics when she was 17, Mastenbroek won gold medals in 100-meter freestyle, the 400-meter freestyle and the 400-freestyle relay. She finished second behind teammate Nida Senff in the 100-meter backstroke.

But Braun had a falling out with Mastenbroek that brought an early end to the young swimmer's athletic career. According to an article in the Journal of Olympic History, Braun attempted to gain legal custody of Mastenbroek but a judge rejected the request.

Feeling betrayed by her coach, Mastenbroek attempted to continue her swimming career but without much success. She briefly took a job as a swimming instructor, but in doing so, the Dutch Swimming Federation ruled, she had become a professional. She lost her amateur standing and was disqualified from competition.

According to David Wallechinsky's "Complete Book of the Summer Olympics," Mastenbroek had a disastrous first marriage and, after the divorce, was left with two children to support. She worked 14 hours a day as a cleaning woman. She later married again and had a third child but faded into obscurity in her country.

In 1972, she told Sports Illustrated magazine: "I am forgotten. No one remembers who I was. Sometimes I think, 'Oh, dear, oh, dear, how good I must have been, how really good!"

Information on survivors was not immediately available.

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