Titanic battle set for 100m final
ATHENS, Greece (CNN) -- Ian Thorpe and world record holder Pieter van den Hoogenband are set for a classic confrontation in the 100 meters freestyle final on Wednesday with the Australian seeking to pull off an unprecedented 100m, 200m and 400m Olympic treble.
One thing is for sure -- there will be no American winner with the U.S. team failing to qualify a man for the finals of the blue riband event for the first time in history.
At the Sydney Games, Dutch ace van den Hoogenband pipped Thorpe to both the 100 and 200 freestyle crowns.
He also set a world record in the semifinals that has stayed on the record books in the intervening four years.
But at Athens so far, Thorpe has had the upper hand claiming gold in the 200m freestyle final on Tuesday where his rival had to settle for silver.
"Another silver for the collection," shrugged van den Hoogenband, who now has two golds, two silvers and two bronze medals from the last two Games.
"Ian just told me 'every time we race you're killing me' and I told him that now we were even," said the 26-year-old from Maastricht. "Only one man can win -- the best one, and that's Ian Thorpe."
Jacco Verhaeren, coach of Pieter van den Hoogenband, said the Australian's biggest attribute was his determination.
"He's very, very experienced now but most of all, he's a very tough competitor," he said. "That's his greatest quality."
Of course the two favorites will not compete in this final on their own and by setting the fastest time in the semifinal South Africa's Roland Mark Schoeman could be in line for a big surprise.
American superstar Michael Phelps, who was third behind Thorpe and van den Hoogenband in Monday's 200m freestyle "race of the century", did not contest the 100 meters free.