With eight Olympic medals to her name, Inge de Bruijn is one of women’s swimming’s legends, confirming all the potential she showed at her first Games in 1992.
A difficult start
Inge de Bruijn won her first medal at the World Championships in 1991 at the age of 17. For her first Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992, she was one of the young hopefuls to follow. But these Games ended for her with two eighth-place finishes in the 50m freestyle and the 4x100m medley. In the 100m butterfly, she did not qualify for the final. Feeling demotivated, Inge, who had swum since the age of seven, put her career on hold, even though she continued to train. Then followed a long difficult period, topped off by not qualifying for the Atlanta Games in 1996.
Seven world records in two weeks, and four Olympic medals
In spring 2000, she signalled her return to the top by beating or equalling seven world records in two weeks! The Dutch swimmer arrived in Sydney for the Olympic Games as firm favourite in the sprint events, a status she confirmed in the pool by taking three tiles in the 50m freestyle, the 100m freestyle and 100m butterfly. To these achievements she added exceptional times, lowering the Olympic and world records.
Accompanied by compatriots Thamar Henneken, Wilma Van Rijn and Manon Van Rooijen, she helped the Dutch relay team take silver in the 4x100m freestyle behind the untouchable US team. At the World Championships in 2001 and 2003, Inge de Bruijn confirmed her status as Queen of the Sprint by taking several titles.
Taking the field from behind
At the Athens Olympic Games in 2004, she once again competed in five events. For her first race, the 4x100m freestyle, Inge de Bruijn swam the last leg. Even though she could not catch the Americans and Australians, she overtook Germany’s Franziska Van Almsick to snatch the bronze medal with teammates Chantal Groot, Inge Dekker, Marleen Veldhuis and Annabel Kosten (who swam in the semi-final).
In the 100m butterfly, she took another Olympic bronze medal, behind another Australian, Petria Thomas, and Poland’s Otylia Jêdrzejczak, even though she was only sixth at the half-way point.
Continuing collecting medals
Her third event was the 100m freestyle, where she came second behind Australia’s Jodie Henry. On the last day of the swimming competitions, Inge competed in the 50m freestyle. The world- and Olympic-record holder took the lead by three tenths of a second, and thus held on to the title she had won in Sydney, taking her fourth Olympic gold medal. In her last event, the 4x100m relay medley, she finished in sixth place.