17 September 2000

De Bruijn shows her class


The race was billed as a clash between Xena the Princess Warrior and Wonder Woman. Xena, as always emerged victorious, but her offsider Gabrielle crashed the party.

Such was the result of the women's 100m butterfly, a race was won in world record time by Dutch superwoman Inge de Bruijn. A race in which former world record holder and American swimming's wonder woman Jenny Thompson was beaten and did not even manage a medal in one of the first major upsets of the Sydney Olympic swim meet. But it was swimming's version of Xena, the woman who has rewritten the history books in warrior fashion time and time again over the past year, who claimed her ninth world record and stamped herself as the most dominant woman in the sport today. In her wake was surprise silver medallist and relatively unheralded Slovak Martina Moravcova, a steady player in the swimming world, but someone hardly expected to finish on the podium after qualifying in lane two tonight. But the race was all de Bruijn who surged home to stop the clock in 56.61 seconds - shaving 0.03 seconds off her own world mark set in the United States in July. Moravcova, the European champion in this event in Finland earlier this year, was more than a second behind in 57.97 seconds.

American triple Olympian and 33-year-old former swim suit model Dara Torres crowned her comeback after seven years out of the sport by securing the bronze medal in 58.20 seconds. Australia's Petria Thomas went into the event as the second fastest qualifier but failed to match the speed of her challengers finishing fourth ahead of Thompson. Her swim of 58.49 seconds was outside her own Commonwealth mark of 58.05 seconds achieved earlier this year. Team-mate and Atlanta 200m butterfly gold medallist Susie O'Neill was seventh. “I was a bit disappointed with the time but I did the best that I could on the night,” Thomas said after the race. “There is alot of pressure and things I think I might have gone out too fast.” But for de Bruijn it was 56.61 seconds of pure ecstasy. A chance for her to finish alone at the top of the Olympic podium. To win a prize she has coveted since she made her first appearance at the Olympics in Barcelona in 1992. A prize which erased the demons of her past after quitting the sport in 1996 due to her disillusionment with the sport. A prize which validated her world record performances which have astounded the world this year. De Bruijn warned of her speed smashing the Olympic 100m butterfly record twice on the opening day of the swimming program to earn top billing for the final.

The 27-year-old sprinter, who hails from Eindhoven southern Holland but lives and trains in the United States, came with in a fingernail of her own world record of 56.64 seconds in the semi final to the clock in a time of 57.14 seconds. De Bruijn's swim was the third fastest in history and shaved 0.56 seconds off the Olympic record she set in the morning heats. She is the only person to have swum faster. Already the European has emerged as the most successful female swimmer internationally this year - her face gracing newspaper sports pages around the world with her blinding performances which have rewritten the sport's history books and taken women's sprint butterfly and freestyle to a new level. But de Bruijn's rise has not been without controversy with questions being raised over the fairness of her performances and training methods.


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