Five Olympic questions with Pieter van den Hoogenband

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Pieter van den Hoogenband is not only a seven-time Olympic medalist, but the Dutch great is also the only swimmer to beat both Michael Phelps and Ian Thorpe in individual Olympic races.

The retired van den Hoogenband, 37, was recently in New York, in a wetsuit in the Hudson River, winning the New Amsterdam City Swim of about 1500m. That’s about 15 times van den Hoogenband’s preferred distance during his competitive career. The event raised money for ALS research.

Van den Hoogenband answered questions before the race:

OlympicTalk: What do you remember about the Athens 2004 Olympic 4x100m freestyle relay, passing Jason Lezak on anchor with the then-fastest relay split ever?

Van Den Hoogenband: I was in my best shape ever, in Athens, but I was racing with a hernia. So I had big problems in my lower back. So every race I did, I was in less form than I was at the start. I knew I could swim a fast 100. So I told my teammates, get me close to Lezak, because I know maybe I can do something special and we can win a medal.

Jason has a lot of speed, and my key element is the second 50. I was extremely powerful back then, but I think Jason used that race to get his peak performance in Beijing [2008 Olympics, when Lezak passed France’s Alain Bernard on anchor, smashing van den Hoogenband’s record for fastest relay split ever].

Like my race in Athens with Thorpey and Phelps [the 200m freestyle “Race of the Century” won by Thorpe, with van den Hoogenband getting silver and Phelps bronze]. Phelps really killed me in Melbourne in 2007, because he really analyzed the race in Athens, what happened, and he brought the 200m freestyle to the next level [winning the 2007 World Championship by 2.42 seconds over van den Hoogenband and breaking Thorpe’s world record by two tenths of a second].

That’s what swimming is about. You need your opponents. We need each other to help our sport. We’re all ambassadors for swimming.

OlympicTalk: Do you have any stories from knowing Phelps early in his career?

Van Den Hoogenband: He is such a professional. We were always together in the warm-up pool. We always loved to do a lot of speed, 50 meters, 100 meters, on race speed before [the race]. And when you have a lot of speed, it’s not nice when you’re in the warm-up pool, and people are swimming very, very slow. So we were always together. The way he developed his underwater kicking, I was watching in the warm-up pool. I was like, wow, this is something totally different.

In Beijing, he found a way to recover very fast, and how he was doing it with his coach [Bob Bowman] and his heartbeat. He was so professional. He was the king in not losing any energy. He was so focused. He knew exactly what he was doing. It was always nice to race him. When you’re close to each other, you don’t see each other that good, but you feel each other. You feel that he’s a very tough opponent. A friend of mine won the gold in judo, and he told me, when you grab somebody in the final [van den Hoogenband grabs the reporter by the shoulders to illustrate], you feel he’s a tough opponent. With Phelps, you knew. This is going to hurt a lot.

Flashback: Michael Phelps at the Sydney 2000 Olympics

OlympicTalk: When was Phelps first on your radar? Did you know who he was at Sydney 2000?

Van Den Hoogenband: After that. Of course, he broke the world record in the 200m fly after the Olympics [on March 30, 2001, at age 15]. Then all the stories, I thought, OK, maybe sometimes you have some U.S. swimmers with some very passionate coaches. They really train hard, and they have a peak performance for only one, two years. So I thought maybe he’s one of those guys, but then I found out that Bowman, he’s a unique professor. He’s a legend. He’s one of the best coaches ever. The two of them, they made the right combination. Michael, of course, he’s the talent. He’s the man. But every big performance is a team effort. I think he will always thank the day Bowman came into his life.

OlympicTalk: You retired immediately after your last race at the 2008 Olympics. Did you ever think about coming out of retirement between 2008 and 2012?

Van Den Hoogenband: Never. It was my biggest passion, but always when I make a choice, that’s it. I knew I gave everything to win the 100 freestyle in Beijing. I finished fifth. I knew, OK, I’m not the best anymore. So now I have to focus on different things and do something else.

OlympicTalk: If you could have a dream relay, with three other swimmers, who would you pick?

Van Den Hoogenband: Matt Biondi, Alex Popov and Michael Phelps.

Mark Spitz puts Michael Phelps’ career in perspective

U.S., China set for FIBA Women’s World Cup gold-medal game

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SYDNEY — Breanna Stewart and the United States used a dominant defensive effort to beat Canada and reach the gold-medal game of the FIBA Women’s World Cup for the fourth consecutive tournament.

Stewart scored 17 points and the Americans raced out to an early lead to put away Canada 83-43 on Friday, reaching a Saturday gold-medal game with China. The 43 points was the fewest scored in a semifinal game in World Cup history.

“Canada has been playing really well all tournament and the goal was just to come out there and really limit them,” said U.S. forward Alyssa Thomas. “We were really locked in from the jump with our game plan.”

China edged host Australia 61-59 in the later semifinal to reach its first global championship game since the 1994 Worlds, the last time it won a medal of any color. The U.S. beat China 77-63 in group play last Saturday, the Americans’ closest game of the tournament.

“Our goal was to to win a gold medal and we’re in position to do that,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said.

The U.S. (7-0), which is on a record pace for points and margin of victory in the tournament, took control of the game early scoring the first 15 points. The Americans contested every shot on the defensive end as the Canadians missed their first nine attempts from the field. On the offensive end, Stewart, A’ja Wilson and Thomas basically got any shot they wanted.

“I think after that punch, it really took the air out of them,” Thomas said. “They didn’t know what to do with their offense anymore after that.”

MORE: FIBA World Cup Schedule, Results

Laeticia Amihere, who plays at South Carolina for former U.S. coach Dawn Staley, finally got Canada on the board nearly 5 minutes into the game making a driving layup.

By the end of the quarter the U.S. led 27-7. Canada had committed four turnovers — the same number the team had against Puerto Rico in the quarterfinals which was the lowest total in a game in 30 years.

The Americans were up 45-21 at the half and the lead kept expanding in the final 20 minutes. The win was the biggest margin for the U.S. in the medal round topping the 36-point victory over Spain in the 2010 World Cup.

Canada (5-2) advanced to the medal round for the first time since 1986 and has a chance to win its first medal since taking the bronze that year.

“We didn’t get it done today, but what we’re going to do is take this with what we learned today and how we can turn it up tomorrow,” Canada captain Natalie Achonwa said. “It’s still a game for a medal and it’s just as important for us.”

The U.S. has won seven of the eight meetings with Canada in the World Cup, although the last one came in 2010. The lone victory for Canada came in 1975.

The victory was the 29th in a row in World Cup play for the Americans, who haven’t lost since the 2006 semifinals against Russia. The Soviet Union holds the World Cup record with 56 straight wins from 1959-86. This is only the second time in the Americans’ storied history they’ve reached four consecutive gold-medal contests. They also did it from 1979-90, winning three times.

This U.S. team, which has so many new faces on it, is on pace to break many of the team’s records that include scoring margin and points per game. The Americans also continued to dominate the paint even without 6-foot-8 Brittney Griner, outscoring its opponents by an average of 55-24.

Amihere led Canada with eight points.

RECORD BREAKING

The low point total broke the mark of 53 that South Korea scored against Russia in 2002.

“We’re starting to build that identity,” Wilson said of the defensive effort. “We’re quick and scrappy and I think that’s our identity.”

The U.S. is averaging 101 points a game. The team’s best mark ever coming into the tournament was 99.1 set in 1994.

STILL RECOVERING

Kahleah Copper sat out after injuring her left hip in the win over Serbia in the quarterfinals. Copper landed hard on her hip driving to the basket and had to be helped off the court. She hopes to play on Saturday. Betnijah Laney, who also got hurt in the Serbia game, did play against Canada.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

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The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule, Results

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium 85, Bosnia and Herzegovina 55 Group A
11:30 p.m. Serbia 81, Mali 68 Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA 145, South Korea 69 Group A
2 a.m. France 67, Japan 53 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 95, Puerto Rico 60 Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia 75, Canada 72 Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 92, South Korea 73 Group A
11:30 p.m. China 81, Belgium 55 Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA 121, Bosnia and Herzegovina 59 Group A
2 a.m. Canada 88, Mali 65 Group B
3:30 a.m. Serbia 68, France 62 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 71, Japan 54 Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. USA 88, Serbia 55 Quarterfinals
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Canada 79, Puerto Rico 60 Quarterfinals
4 a.m. China 85, France 71 Quarterfinals
6:30 a.m. Australia 86, Belgium 69 Quarterfinals
Fri., Sept. 30 3 a.m. USA 83, Canada 43 Semifinals
5:30 a.m. Australia vs. China Semifinals
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final