Host City: Athina, Greece
Venue(s): Olympic Aquatic Centre, Athens Olympic Sports Complex Spiros Loues, Athina
Date Started: August 15, 2004
Date Finished: August 16, 2004
|Silver:||Pieter van den Hoogenband|
The 200 metres freestyle promised to be one of the most eagerly awaited events, not just of the swimming programme, but of the entire Athens Olympic programme and had gathered interest even from those with only a passing interest in the sport. The field for the race that had been billed as the swimmingâs âRace of the Centuryâ long in advance of the Games included some of the most recognisable names in modern swimming history. Reigning champion [Pieter van den Hoogenband] of the Netherlands was joined by newly crowned 400 m freestyle champion [Ian Thorpe] of Australia and two multiple World Champions in the shape of [Michael Phelps] and [Grant Hackett]. Such was the quality of the eight finalists that they would go to win a combined career total of 31 Olympic and 49 World Championship titles between them.
Thorpe and van den Hoogenband had been rivals since before the Sydney Olympics whilst Phelps had established himself as a world star by dominating the 2003 World Championship although he had not contested this event at those championships.
Van den Hoogenband had upset Thorpe in front of an enthusiastic Australian crowd in 2000 and seemed to treat the early stages of the final as an extension of the race as he set a blistering sub world record pace to the 150 metre mark. This time though the Dutchman had misjudged his pacing and he faded towards the end. Thorpeâs 400 metre stamina brought him through to extract revenge for the defeat in Sydney whilst van den Hoogenband just had enough left to hold off Phelps for silver.