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Monday, September 18
Dutchman ties own world record

SYDNEY, Australia -- The Flying Dutchman stunned the Thorpedo -- and an entire nation.

With millions of swimming-crazed Aussies watching on television and thousands cheering in person, Pieter van den Hoogenband upset Ian Thorpe in the men's 200-meter freestyle, winning Olympic gold and tying his own world record in 1:45.35.

Pieter van den Hoogenband
Pieter van den Hoogenband, below, denied Ian Thorpe a third gold medal in Sydney.

Denied a third gold medal, Thorpe earned silver 24 hours after Van den Hoogenband broke Thorpe's world record in the semifinals. Thorpe finished in 1:45.83. Massimiliano Rosolino of Italy took bronze in 1:46.65.

"We came to the lion's den and we did it," said Cees-Rijn van den Hoogenband, Pieter's father. "Pieter is the sleeping kind and all of a sudden he awakes."

Van den Hoogenband and Thorpe were even at the 150-meter mark when cheers of "Thorpey, Thorpey" reverberated throughout the Sydney International Aquatic Center.

The Dutchman began pulling away in the middle of the pool.

"In the last 25 meters, I was going full out," Van den Hoogenband said. "Suddenly, I thought, `God, he's not going to pass me."'

After the race, the fans cheered for Van den Hoogenband and then got noticeably quiet. He covered his face with his hands before climbing out of the pool and blowing kisses to the crowd.

Venue volunteers and workers had jammed every available nook to catch a glimpse of the most highly anticipated individual showdown so far at the Olympic pool.

"Beating Thorpe here is the maddest thing you can do," said Jan Loordach, the Dutch team leader, "and he's not finished yet."

Van den Hoogenband erased Thorpe's world record with a 1:45.35 in Sunday's semifinals. Thorpe swam the next heat and missed taking the record back by two one-hundreths of a second.

"The most amazing thing is to beat the overwhelming favorite," the Dutchman said. "I think I already gave him a psychological blow yesterday."

The man nicknamed "Hoogie" just missed medals in the 100 and 200 freestyles when he finished fourth at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Van den Hoogenband established his reputation as a giant killer last year by beating Olympic champion Alexander Popov of Russia in the 50 and 100 freestyles at the European championships.

Van den Hoogenband gave a tiny nation best known for soccer and speedskating its second gold medal and world record in swimming in as many nights. On his way to the medals podium, he high-fived Inge de Bruijn, who won the women's 100 butterfly Sunday.

Thorpe's time was nearly a half-second slower than his semifinal effort. He ducked into Van den Hoogenband's lane to congratulate his conqueror.

"I gave it my all in the race," Thorpe said. "That was a great race on behalf of Pieter. It's a real privilege to be able to swim that race."

Perhaps the weight of a nation took its toll on the 17-year-old, who earned gold in the 400 free and then returned to anchor the Aussies to an emotional and narrow victory over the United States in the 400 free relay Saturday.

"I would like to have gone a little bit faster, but you don't always get it your own way," Thorpe said.

Diana Mocanu became the first Romanian swimmer to win a gold medal, taking the 100 backstroke in an Olympic record 1:00.21. Mocanu, who was third at 50 meters, won Romania's first swimming medal since 1988. She broke the old mark of 1:00.68 set by Krisztina Egerszegi of Hungary at the 1992 Olympics.

Mai Nakamura earned silver in 1:00.55, giving Japan its first backstroke medal since 1960. Nina Zhivanevskaya of Spain took bronze in 1:00.89. B.J. Bedford of Etna, N.H., was sixth in 1:01.47 after being second at 50 meters.


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