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Swimming stars gather at Phuket's Thanyapura SLC

SWIMMING: A galaxy of swimming stars from the Dutch, Hungarian and British national swim teams are training at Thanyapura Sports and Leisure Club this month and next.

Wednesday 16 January 2013, 02:58PM


Olympic hero of the Sydney and Athens games and one of the greatest swimmers of all time, Pieter van den Hoogenband, headed up an all-star elite group from the Dutch national team for a high performance training camp at TSLC on Sunday, January 13, along with fellow gold medalists Ranomi Kromowidjojo and Femke Heemskerk, with Dutch national team coach Jacco Verhaeren and Royal Dutch Swimming Federation Elite Swimming Team Manager Aad van Groningen.

Two Italian ‘rock stars’ of the pool, Filippo Magnini and Federica Pellegrini, along with coach Matteo Guinta, have also announced they will drop in to ‘jam’ with their fellow Olympic gold medallists. Both having a cavalcade of world records and gold medals to their names, and the Italian pair caused a stir when they posed naked for the cover of Vanity Fair in 2012.

Van den Hoogenband’s credentials as one of the greats of the pool are unquestioned: the 2000 World Swimmer of the Year began his gold rush at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, where he faced world record holder Ian Thorpe in the 200m freestyle and beat the home crowd favourite in a world record time, while in the 100m freestyle he set a world record in the semi-finals before beating the great Alexander Popov to win the gold medal.

At the 2004 Olympics in Athens, he again won gold in the 100m freestyle while by finishing ahead of Michael Phelps in the 200m freestyle for the silver and also in the 4x100m freestyle relay, he became the only swimmer ever to beat Phelps twice in Olympic competition.

Ranomi Kromowidjojo, whose exotic name attests to her Dutch-Javanese-Surinamese heritage is a triple Olympic champion with gold medals in the 4X100m freestyle relay at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and in the 50m freestyle and 100m freestyle at the 2012 Olympics in London.

Femke Heemskerk is another freestyle specialist who also excels in backstroke and medley, and is part of the world record-holding Dutch 4x100m freestyle relay team, as well as part of the Dutch team that holds the 4x200m freestyle relay world record.

Federica Pellegrini, meantime, is a former world record holder in the 200m and 400m freestyle, 200m freestyle gold medallist at the 2008 Olympics, as well as the first female to break the four minute barrier for the 400m freestyle and Italy’s first female swimming gold medallist. Filippo Magnani is a four times World Champion, twice in the 100m freestyle, and in the 100m and 200m freestyle relays. He is also an Olympic bronze medallist from the 2004 games.

Following the Dutch team’s high performance sessions, next out of the blocks is the Hungarian national team training camp from January 22, followed by the Liaoning Swim Team from China from January 27 for an intensive coaching camp with Australian legend Stephan Widmer, and then the British national team’s cream arrive at Thanyapura for a high performance training camp from February 4.

Craig Johns, Thanyapura’s Director of Sports Academies, said the stellar line up was a brilliant start to 2013 and continuing evidence of Thanyapura assuming its place as one of the world’s leading venues for elite athletes seeking an extra edge in performance.

“It’s such a thrill to see great champions like Pieter van den Hoogenband lined up to visit us here and train, as well as more recent stars like the Dutch women,” Mr Johns said. “So far, every elite athlete who has trained here at TSLC has come away wowed with the facilities and the entire project. The next two months will cement our place as a serious force in the sport and we expect the stars of world swimming will continue to shine at Thanyapura.”

Mr Van Groningen also said he was ‘very happy’ Van den Hoogenband had agreed to travel to Phuket with the Dutch elite swim team. “This will be a great promotion all over the world in swimming,” he said. “At this stage, it looks like a major Dutch newspaper and television channel are coming to cover the trip.”

The Aquatics Academy, which is where the Dutch and other elite swimmers will train, is the jewel in the crown of the TSLC megaplex. It includes a 50m Olympic-standard outdoor swimming pool with electronic timing system, coaches’ observation window and a 600-seater shaded grandstand, plus state-of-the-art ozone filtration system and anti-turbulence lane ropes. There is also an adjacent 25m outdoor swimming pool with its own coaching platform.

Thanyapura President Robert Hauck said TSLC was in high gear now. “It was always envisioned that Thanyapura would become a training retreat or even a base for elite sports teams from all over the world,” he said. “Swimming is leading the way, but other sports will follow.”

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