Anyone in Holland with the status of famous sportsman should - by the rules of the glass house of Dutch society - stay as normal as possible. Even the world famous. Changing, being different than before, will cause severe criticism. Swimmer Pieter van den Hoogenband has nothing to worry about this. The Olympic hero of Sydney 2000 is still the same boy he used to be. Relaxed, friendly, helpfull.

Pieter van den Hoogenband (1978) felt like a Mr. Nobody after the Olympic Games in 1996 resulted in two fourth places. "I have no list of honour, fourth place was my place. Then I thought: nice, but now I want a medal." Now, after four Olympic trophies, he is Someone: gold on 100 and 200 meter freestyle, bronze on 50 and 4x200 freestyle. His father Cees-Rein ('famous' in Holland being team doctor of soccer club PSV) said Pieter realized his fame during the prestigious World Awards in London: "He then saw he belonged to the group of Fanny Blankers-Koen, Johan Cruijff, Ard Schenk and Anton Geesink". All four being sports legends in the Netherlands, Europe, possibly even worldwide.
Maybe Inge de Bruijn should be mentioned here too after her possibly even more impressive three gold medals in Sydney's swimming arena.

The man with the unpronounceable name (except for the Dutch speaking) is often called Pieter the Great, Dutch Dolphin, Hoogie or simply VDH. He was the first earthling to pass the 48 seconds boundary on the 100 meter freestyle and holds the world record at 47.84. Van den Hoogenband's most dangerous opponents are Australia's Ian Thorpe and Russia's Alexander Popov. The Dutchman also has the European record on 200 meter freestyle behind his name: 1:45.35. Both times were set in Sydney.


Sources: de Volkskrant,

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