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Van den Hoogenband wins 100 meters

Pieter van den Hoogenband
Van den Hoogenband defended the 100m freestyle title he won in Sydney.
• Olympics 2004: Special report 

ATHENS, Greece -- Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband won Wednesday's big battle in the pool in Athens to retain his Olympic title in the 100 meters freestyle -- considered the Games' blue riband swimming event.

Ian Thorpe, who beat van den Hoogenband in Monday's 200 meters freestyle, could only finish third behind South Africa's Roland Schoeman.

The Australian, who also won the 400 meters freestyle, had been hoping to become the first swimmer to win gold medals in the 100m, 200m and 400m events.

Van den Hoogenband finished in 48.17 seconds, just outside the world record of 47.84 seconds he set during the Sydney Games four years ago.

"I am the champion! I did it again," said van den Hoogenband. "I really wanted to win the gold. It is hard to be a defending champion."

He had been sixth at halfway as Schoeman reached the turn inside the world record time but Van den Hoogenband reeled the South African in with just 25 meters left.

"I was closing -- it was like I was in a trance," said van den Hoogenband. "When I touched the wall and looked back I saw it was mine. I was so happy."

Schoeman took the silver in 48.23 seconds, while middle distance specialist Thorpe, who had the slowest qualifying time of the eight finalists, finished in a personal best of 48.56 seconds.

"I didn't think that that was going to happen," said Thorpe. "Maybe what I need is to get up and give more than I had tonight. But I'm really pleased with the way I swam."

Kitajima gold

In other races, Japan's Kosuke Kitajima claimed his second gold medal of the Games with victory in the 200m breaststroke, while his American arch rival Brendan Hansen had to settle for third behind 15-year-old Hungarian Daniel Gyurta.

Kitajima had been accused by the American team of using an illegal dolphin kick during his win in the 100m at the weekend.

"I knew that stuff about the kick was rubbish," said the 21-year-old after leading from start to finish to win in a time of two minutes 09.44.

"I couldn't care less what they say. It didn't put me off. I knew as long as I swam my race I would win. They can talk, I prefer to make my point in the pool."

Hansen had gone into the Games as favorite after setting world records in the 100m and 200m breaststroke at last month's U.S. trials.

Otylia Jedrzejczak of Poland won the women's 200m butterfly in a time of two minutes 6.05 seconds to improve on her earlier silvers in the 400m freestyle and 100m butterfly.

Australian Petria Thomas, who beat Jedrzejczak in the 100m, finished second with Yuko Nakanishi of Japan claiming the bronze.

Meanwhile, the United States broke swimming's oldest world record to win the women's 4x200 meters freestyle relay gold medal.

Natalie Coughlin, Carly Piper, Dana Vollmer and Kaitlin Sandeno clocked seven minutes 53.42 to take 2.05 seconds off the mark set by East Germany 17 years ago to the night.

The Chinese team of Zhu Yingwen, Xu Yanwei, Yang Yu and Pang Jiaying were second in 7:55.97 to take the silver.

Franziska Van Almsick, Petra Dallmann, Antje Buschschulte and Hannah Stockbauer took bronze for Germany in 7:57.35.

Australia's Jodie Henry also set a new world record of 53.52 seconds to qualify for the final of the women's 100m freestyle.

"I just went out there and tried my hardest to get into the final," said the 20-year-old who sliced 0.14 seconds off the previous world best.

"It's not done yet. Anything can happen in the Olympic final. You can be the favorite and not get a medal."

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