He is not the man to look back with the wrong feeling. And yet he sometimes thinks: if only he had had a fraction of his present knowledge back then.
In Atlanta, the young Van den Hoogenband is grappling with difficult agreements with the national coach René Dekker. He is fourth in the 200-meter freestyle, his first race on American soil, just 0.11 seconds behind bronze.
In order to be able to take his chance on the free 100 two days later, he asks Dekker to save him on the number that is programmed between the two, the free 4×200. The coach ignores the request and reports the prior agreements to the swimmer.
Van den Hoogenband did not hit the 100 freestyle limit as the Games approached and is only registered for that number if he swims all relay numbers in Atlanta.
Six times in three days
Things like the best interests of the team and the responsibility of teammates are considered more important than saving energy. The result: in the 100 freestyle final, Van den Hoogenband is on the starting block for the sixth time in three days.
It turns out, in retrospect, to be a costly mistake. From lane 1, with no view of its main rivals, the Brabander rushed to fourth place despite a poor start and a moderate turn. He hits in 49.13. Russian Alexander Popov (48.74), local swimmer Gary Hall junior (48.81) and Brazilian Gustavo Borges (49.02) remain out of reach.
Watch Van den Hoogenband’s run in the 100 freestyle in 1996 below.