The Australian Dolphins Swim team has assembled in the heartland of legendary Netherlands swimmers Pieter van den Hoogenband and Inge de Bruijn as they prepare for this month’s FINA World Championships in Budapest.
The Dolphins, many who have been in Europe racing over the past month as part of a new preparation approach, are training in the southern Dutch city of Eindhoven, home club of the two famous Olympic champions.
The pool is named after van den Hoogenband – who shot to international swimming stardom at the 2000 Olympics under now Australian coach Jacco Verhaeren.
It was van den Hoogenband – or Hoogie as he has become internationally acclaimed– who started one of the great rivalries with Australia’s own Ian Thorpe over 200m freestyle between 2000 and 2004.
Along with de Bruijn the pair began what became a strong bond with Australia – even stronger now with Verhaeren in charge of the Dolphins.
“It is certainly exciting for me to bring the Australian team back to Holland where everything really happened for me as a coach,” said Verhaeren, still a popular identity with the Dutch media and sporting public.
“I certainly know the facilities like the ‘back of my hand’ as they say in Australia and that’s like you know pretty special.
“I’m sure the athletes and staff are enjoying it, especially after they spent so much time in Europe this summer racing and preparing a little differently for the world championships.
“Racing at the Mare Nostrum is not something you can do every year because it does not always fit in with the scheduling but for this year it has been perfect.
“We have to see it as a four-year cycle; what we are doing here may not always be the best in coming years but then again it could be for some.
“To be exposed to more international competition is an important part post Rio. It is something we needed to do better.
“To have exposure to travel and circumstances you don’t always have control over.
“The Mare Nostrum has always been internationally successful and it is also five weeks out from the major competition – we will see how this goes.”
The pool team will stay in Eindhoven until the 19th of July, with the Open Water Team two days into their competition with debutant Jack Brazier diving in for the men’s 10km event tomorrow.
Wednesday will see Kareena Lee back in the water for the 5km event, following her 19th place finish in the 10km and she will be joined by Kiah Melverton, world sort course bronze medallist over the 800m freestyle and open water rookie.
Find out more about our team in Hungary here.