‘Race of the Century’ swimmer considering Dutch top job at Tokyo 2020

Triple Olympic champion Pieter Van den Hoogenband mulling Netherlands chef de mission role

Pieter Van den Hoogenband etched his name into the swimming annals when he won the 100m and 200m freestyle gold medals at Sydney 2000.

Not only did the Dutchman do ‘the double’, but he also set a 200m free world record, defeating much-fancied local hero Ian Thorpe in the process.

It was no surprise therefore that all eyes were on the Flying Dutchman and his rival as they did battle again four years later in Athens.

The 200m freestyle in Greece was unofficially dubbed ‘The Race of the Century’, as the reigning champion lined up against Thorpe and a new international star called Michael Phelps.

In the end the Australian avenged his silver in Sydney by winning a contest that comfortably lived up to its lofty pre-race billing.

Van den Hoogenband rebounded in style though, retaining his 100m free Olympic title two days later.

He eventually retired at Beijing 2008, after breaking his own 100m free national record, but failing to medal in the final.

Thorpe wins 'Race of the Century' at Athens 2004

Thorpe wins 'Race of the Century' at Athens 2004

Now, 14 years later, the Limburg-born star is considering a return to the Olympic fold as the head of the Dutch party.

“Our technical director Maurits Hendricks asked me to maybe become the chef de mission of the Dutch Olympic team at the Olympics in Tokyo,” Van den Hoogenband told the Olympic Channel.

“That’s a big honour but I told him I want to think about it and make my own strategy.

“One of the main things is to inspire a generation and give a good example with the Olympic values that made me the person I am now. I want to give that back.”

Regardless of whether the 40-year-old takes the job or not, he is excited about the exciting swimming talent in the Netherlands.

"We have some talented swimmers. There’s a guy called Nyls Korstanje who won at the European Youth Olympic festival and went to the States to train and study there.

"We have the girl Marrit Steenbergen who won gold at the (2015) Baku European Games and is a very good swimmer.

It will be nice to see if Ranomi Kromowidjojo, one of the youngsters in London who won the gold there, can help and share her knowledge to the younger generation to perform well at the Tokyo Games.

"Our ladies have quite a reputation in the relay.

"I will decide (on the chef de mission role) before 1 October."

Enjoyed this story? Share it with your friends!