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Swimming at the 2000 Sydney Summer Games:

Men's 100 metres Freestyle

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Events:
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Host City: Sydney, Australia
Venue(s): Sydney International Aquatic Centre, Olympic Park, Sydney, New South Wales
Date Started: September 19, 2000
Date Finished: September 20, 2000

Gold: NED Pieter van den Hoogenband
Silver: RUS Aleksandr Popov
Bronze: USA Gary Hall, Jr.

Summary

Held right in the middle of the Olympic swimming programme this race had a perfect cast list.

There was [Aleksandr Popov] of Russia, the defending champion returning from a life threatening injury, American [Gary Hall, Jr.], cast as the brash anti-hero in the eyes of the Australian fans, [Pieter van den Hoogenband], the rising star from Holland who had already won the 200 metres freestyle, and, last but not least, [Michael Klim], the Australian hoping to win on home soil.

Klim had already put his marker down by setting a world record in the first leg of the 4 x 100 freestyle relay. This record lasted all of six days until van den Hoogenband took a third of a second off it in the semi-finals. The Dutchman did not match his semi-final time in the final but still finished well clear of everyone else with Popov, Hall and Klim finishing in that order behind him separated by just 0.05 seconds.

Worthy as van den Hoogenband’s efforts were they garnered less worldwide publicity then the events of qualifying heat one. Three men attempted to start the race but two false started leaving [Eric Moussambani] of Equatorial Guinea as the only man left. He started well enough but it soon became apparent that he was tiring badly over the third quarter of the race and near the end he was struggling so badly that it looked as if he may have to be rescued from the pool. He did eventually reach the finish but only in a time of 1:52.72. which was over a minute down on most of the field and would not have been enough to qualify from the heats of the 200 metres. For a brief moment Moussambani, nicknamed “Eric the Eel” by the media, became the most famous swimmer in the world.