- 23 Sep 2000
- Sydney 2000
De Bruijn completes pool comeback with stunning hat-trick
The career of Dutch swimmer Inge de Bruijn had looked to be on the decline ever since a rather disappointing series of performances at the 1992 Games in Barcelona.
She was selected for the Dutch team for Atlanta 1996 but chose not to take part following an apparent fall-out with members of the national coaching staff. In the end, she watched the 1996 Games on television and was left deeply regretting her decision not to take part.
The experience prompted an unusual renaissance. De Bruijn said that missing the Atlanta Games brought her new levels of focus and determination and she set about improving her fitness, attitude and training regimen. She also began to use new swimwear that, she said, helped her to swim faster.
In 1999, she won titles at the 50m freestyle and the 100m butterfly titles at the European Championships, before adding the 50m freestyle world title. But she was just getting warmed up, and 2000 was to be her greatest year yet.
Between May 27 and July 22, de Bruijn broke or equalled the world record in the 50m freestyle three times, twice in the 100m butterfly, twice in the 50m butterfly and once in the 100m freestyle.
It meant that by the time she arrived in Sydney the expectations were huge, and she didn’t disappoint.
De Bruijn started off with a silver medal as part of the Dutch 4x100m freestyle relay team, swimming a remarkable final leg that dragged her team from sixth place to second.
That was a fine warm-up for her trio of individual events.
She started by winning the women’s 100m butterfly, breaking the Olympic record in both the semi-final and final. Then in the 100m freestyle she set a new world record in the semi-final and added another gold medal in the final.
Finally came the 50m freestyle. The semi-final produced yet another world record, before she took her gold medal tally to three, seeing off Sweden's Therèse Alshammar and the 33-year-old Dara Torres in the final. Torres, remarkably, went on to win a silver in the event eight years later at the age of 41!
De Bruijn herself continued her winning streak in the years that followed, and retained her Olympics 50m freestyle title at Athens 2004.