Thursday, May 30, 2024

Paris 2024 | Dutch team is in good shape – Steenbergen and Schouten contenders for medal

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For Dutch viewers it is finally possible to watch swimming without completely changing your sleep rhythm. In Rio as in Tokyo, swimming took place in the middle of the night. Just the right moment for the American viewer, but almost impossible as a European. With the Games again in the same time zone as that of the Netherlands, swimming will again be shown in prime time on Dutch televisions and other screens.

  • What: Swimming (women)
  • Where: Paris La Defense Arena
  • When: July 27 – August 3 (8:30 PM – 10:30 PM finals, 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM heats)
  • Where to watch: Eurosport 1 & HBO Max
  • Dutch participants: Valerie van Roon, Marrit Steenbergen, Maaike de Waard, Kira Toussaint, Tes Schouten, Tessa Giele, 4x100m freestyle relay, 4x200m freestyle relay, 4x100m medley relay
  • Favorites: Kaylee McKeown, Summer McIntosh, Ruta Meilutyte, Katie Ledecky

What does the swimming stadium look like?

For the first time since 2004, we will be swimming at the Olympic Games in a stadium that was not specially built for the Games. The Paris La Défense Arena is normally used by rugby team Racing 92, a team that plays in the country’s top rugby division. A swimming pool will be installed in the stadium especially for the Games.

The stadium is one of the largest indoor stadiums in Europe. At a Racing match there can be more than 30,000 people in the stands. At concerts there is even room for 40,000 people. Big names have already performed in the La Défense Arena. The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Rammstein, P!nk and Stromae, all held a concert in the main hall. In May, the hall was sold out four nights in a row for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour.

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The swimming stadium is normally used as a rugby stadium

Photo: Icon Sport

The capacity for swimming is slightly reduced. An Olympic swimming pool is about half the length of a rugby field. By making the stadium a little smaller, everyone in the stands can follow the matches in the water. During the Games there will be room for just over 15,000 people.

Marrit Steenbergen the new queen?

Swimming enthusiasts were first introduced to Marrit Steenbergen at the European Games in 2015. Steenbergen established herself as the new Dutch swimming champion: a true successor to Inge de Bruijn, Ranomi Kromowidjojo, Marleen Veldhuis and Femke Heemskerk. At the tournament in which only juniors participated, she won the 100 meter freestyle and won gold in the 50 meter and 200 meter freestyle. She won the competition in a time of under 54 seconds. Lightning fast for a 15 year old.

In the women’s relay team, the retirement of Inge Dekker and Marleen Veldhuis created room for new talent. At the age of sixteen she won gold as part of the relay team at the European Championships and came fourth at the Games in Rio. A glorious career lay ahead for Steenbergen.

However, her progress stalled. She had not reached the time she swam in Baku as a 15-year-old for 7 years. A shoulder injury, but also mental problems meant that Steenbergen could not swim the same times as she used to. From 2018 to 2020, she hardly swam competitions, but she did complete high school. As an exceptional swimmer, she had been lonely and had hardly any friends, she would later say.

With psychological help and a pain-free body, things finally seemed to go well in 2022. On a special summer evening in Rome she won gold in the 100 meter freestyle. Later she would also win the 200 meters. She also won gold in the 200-meter individual medley. She won a medal at three other distances: no one won more medals in that tournament than Steenbergen.

The tournament in Italy was a march towards more. First there was bronze in the 100 meter freestyle at the World Championships in Fukuoka in 2023, this year she won gold at that distance in a Dutch record. She was faster than Kromowidjojo ever was and defeated, among others, the lightning-fast Siobhan Haughey from Hong Kong.

As one of the favorites, she will travel to Paris this summer, knowing that she has defeated almost all her competitors at some point. She has a busy schedule: She also wants to start in the 50 and 200 meter freestyle, 200 meter medley, the 100 and 200 meter freestyle relay, 100 meter medley relay and the mixed 100 meter medley relay. An almost impossible programme, if you consider that there are also series and semi-finals.

Where does Tes Schouten’s upward trend end?

Marrit Steenbergen hopes to win a medal in the medley relay together with Tes Schouten. Schouten is from the same generation as Steenbergen. Together they won silver at the 2015 European Games, Steenbergen’s breakthrough tournament.

Schouten’s career was less stormy. For years she had slowly but surely made progress and sharpened her Dutch record, but this had not led to very special results. Her performance was sometimes disappointing, especially at major tournaments, such as at the Tokyo Games when she was far from a semi-final.

In 2023, the woman from Bodegraven reached the final at a World Cup for the first time. She immediately won bronze in the 200 breaststroke. In Doha it became clear that Schouten can do even more. She won gold in the 200 meters and silver in the 100 meter breaststroke. If Schouten wins a medal in Paris, she will be the first Dutch woman since Petra van Staveren to win a medal in the breaststroke.

In the Olympic rankings, which is a list of the fastest swam races in 2023 and 2024, Tes Schouten is second behind the American Kate Douglass in the 200 meters. She is in 8th place in the 100 meters.

Veterans and new challengers

The eyes will once again be on Ruta Meilutyte in Paris. The Lithuanian is Schouten’s major competitors in the 100 meter breaststroke. The Lithuanian is a true phenomenon and is the only swimmer to ever win gold at the world championships in every age group. She was only 15 years old when she won gold at the London Games.

The Lithuanian who grew up in England won everything there was to win in her teens and ended her career in 2019, aged just 22. She suffered from an eating disorder and was not feeling well. She recovered from that and then it started to tickle again when it came to swimming at the highest level. She is now back to her old level.

This year she won gold in the non-Olympic breaststroke at the World Championships. In 2023 she was the best in the 100 meters in the fastest time of the year. If she wins gold in Paris, that will be one of the best stories of the Games.

Kaylee McKeown (Pronounced: Mck-Qn, not Mck-cow-n) is the best backstroke swimmer of the moment. She currently holds the world records for all backstroke distances. The Australian has already won two gold medals in the backstroke in Tokyo and will want to add two more in Paris. Then she also has opportunities in the medley relays. There is a good chance that McKeown will be the athlete who takes home the most gold medals.

When you say gold, you say Katie Ledecky. The American long-distance sensation won 7 golds and three silvers at the Olympic Games. She even won gold 21 times at the world championships.

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Tokyo 2020 | Titmus beats Ledecky at 400 meters

Ledecky has been there since 2012, but has now faced serious competition. However, the American remains almost unbeatable so far. From 2013 to this year, she has not lost a race longer than 400 meters. The Chinese Binjie Lie and the Australian Ariarne Titmus are getting closer.

But the real competition comes from a Canadian teenager. Summer McIntosh can do anything, as long as it’s tough. Medley, 200 meter butterfly, but also longer distances in the freestyle. She was already the boss of Ledecky in the 800 meters this year. Can she also do that at the Games?

WHERE ARE YOU LOOKING?

Eurosport and HBO Max will broadcast the battle for gold, silver and bronze live during Paris 2024. Just like in Tokyo and Beijing, we bring you all the matches in Paris live with a large team of experts and commentators, with all the emotions, reactions, analyzes and backgrounds. Are you following us? new channel on WhatsApp yet?

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