Steenbergen & Schouten Lob Double Dutch Gauntlet Before Gonzalez, Dong & China Join Them In Doha World-Title Debutants Club

2024-02-16 No comments Reading Time: 5 minutes
Tes Schouten, left, and Marrit Steenbergen make it a double Dutch celebration, as Spain's Hugo Gonzalez joins them in the club of Doha solo world-title debutants - courtesy of World Aquatics
Tes Schouten, left, and Marrit Steenbergen make it a double Dutch celebration, as Spain's Hugo Gonzalez joins them in the club of Doha solo world-title debutants - courtesy of World Aquatics

Marrit Steenbergen and Tes Schouten slapped a double Dutch gauntlet down on the podium contenders list for the Paris 2024 Olympics with debut World titles on day 6 in Doha this evening before Hugo Gonzalez, on backstroke for Spain, Dong Zhihao on breaststroke and then his China 4x200m free teammates joined them in the club of long-course World champions.

Steenbergen was one of the world’s best and most versatile junior swimmers before she spent a few years on a plateau between her teenage years and maturity as a female athlete. In the past couple of seasons, Steenbergen has been ascending to new career heights.

Today, the 24-year-old reached a new peak, of 52.26sec for the World 100m freestyle crown ahead of Siobhan Haughey and Shayna Jack. That lifted Steenbergen from 15th to 8th on the all-time world ranking list.

She had taken down the Femke Heemskerk‘s 52.69 Dutch record in semis yesterday with a 52.53 that also wiped out her own personal best of 52.71 from Fukuoka 2023 Worlds last July. This evening, Steenbergen took the Dutch pace down by another quarter of a second and announced her arrival among those with their sights set on Paris honours.

Tes Schouten of The Netherlands - by Patrick B. Kraemer
Tes Schouten of The Netherlands – by Patrick B. Kraemer

Schouten, 23, followed a similar pattern to that of her teammate: the Dutch record was gone in semis yesterday, on 2:21.50 (after nationals standards of 17th on the all-time rankings. This evening, she landed gold in a dominant 2:19.81, leading from block to blocking American Kate Douglass by just over a second, the bronze to Canadian Sydney Pickrem.

Gonzalez, claimed the 200m backstroke crown in 1:55.30, a Spanish textile record (in shiny suit, Aschwin Wildeboer clocked 1:54.9 in 2009) that thumped his previous best of 1:56.33 and lifted him from 56th all-time to a place in the best 20, at 19. That demoted Switzerland’s Roman Mityukov by one place before he took silver today just 0.06sec outside his best, the bronze to South Africa’s Peter Coetze, the third man home inside 1:56.

When Steenbergen and Gonzalez Were European Junior Champions

World champions don’t tend to come from nowhere and the pathway to senior success is often to be found in the development roots of future champions. Steenbergen was European 100m free champion in 2017, while Gonzalez was 200m backstroke champion in 2016.

The pathway to the biggest podiums is often long, challenging and paved with setbacks and struggles. Some curves from junior to senior are more unusual than others.

A Peek At China’s Paris Dress Rehearsal

Dong Zhihao gave another hint of China’s plans for a 1-2 punch in the 200m breaststroke at the Paris Olympic Games. In the absence of 2023 World champion and teammate Qin Haiyang, Dong took the latest in an unusual string of annual world long-course titles in 2:07.94 to prevent a third Dutch gold on the night.

The silver went to Caspar Corbeau, of The Netherlands, in 2:08.24 after he had led all the way to the last turn before Dong, in sixth at that stage, roared through the field with a 32.18sec split, no others inside 33.2 and Corbeau on 34.07. The bronze went to American Nic Fink.

The session ended with China picking up gold for the first time ever in the men’s 4x200m free 0.1sec ahead of Korea, the USA third, with Olympic and world champions Great Britain fourth with only two of its champion line-up in the water and both of them racing a combined five or more seconds slower than their peak-form best.

Championship finals – Doha, day 6

All results in Doha – at Omega

Women’s 100m freestyle final

Marrit Steenbergen - courtesy of World Aquatics
Marrit Steenbergen – courtesy of World Aquatics

Marrit Steenbergen rose to eighth on the all-time rankings with a 52.26sec victory that kept at bay Olympic silver medallist Siobhan Haughey, 52.56 for silver, and Shayna Jack*, 52.83 for bronze and the last inside 53sec today in Doha.

Haughey blasted a 24.87 opening lap, with Brit Anna Hopkin, Jack and Steenbergen in a line with only 0.08 between all three.

The Dutch ace then put in a 26.96 knockout blow, no other finalist inside 27.5 on the way home. Job done; maiden world long-course solo crown in the bag to top alongside the 4x100m free gold she and teammates placed in the Dutch sprint pantheon last Sunday.

Women’s 200m breaststroke final

Schouten led from go to a second Dutch gold on the day, the splits telling a tale of control of the pace and the race, start to finish.

Men’s 200m backstroke final

Hugo Gonzalez, of Spain - courtesy of World Aquatics
Hugo Gonzalez, of Spain – courtesy of World Aquatics

The last time Spain celebrated the 200m backstroke world title, all contenders were present and the World Championships were held every four years, give or take the odd six-month shunt to take into account hemispheres and seasons. It was 1991, Martin Lopez Zubero was the champion and we were in Perth, Western Australia and swimming was often held in places where they not only live their swimming but produce the knowledgeable crowds to show it.

Doha 2024 and the circumstances are different on many levels but Hugo Gonzalez stuck to his lane, his mission on the day, crunched his own Spanish textile record, rocketed up the all-time ranks and produced another role-model performance for his teammates to aspire to as the Spanish program works on the foundations required to take its potential to the next level.

Men’s 200m breaststroke final

Qin Haiyang clocked seven of the fastest eight Chinese 200m breaststroke times ever in 2023. The one in the middle of his list not from 2023 was from 2017 when he was 17 going on 18. At that same junior age last year, Dong Zhihao rose to the all-time China No 2 performer last year and ended the year with the 9th best performance in his country, a 2:07.70, good for silver at world titles. Hard to say what happens next for Dong: does he fall away from best for the next six years or does he take a different pathway to that followed by Qin?

More certain today was the fury in his last lap. At 32.18, he was all but a match for Qin’s stunning 32.12 when he broke the world record for gold ahead of Dong at 2023 Worlds in Fukuoka.

Caspar Corbeau set the pace all the way today until the Dong drop, while Nic Fink, off the USA put in his third solid podium-placing effort of the week for bronze in 2:08.85 ahead of teammate Jake Foster, one of the newcomers to global long-course selection who he will now face at USA Olympic trials in June.

Men’s 4x200m freestyle final

China and Korea overhauled the United States on the last leg to take gold and silver respectively in 7:01.84 and 7:01.94, Hwang Sunwoo almost closing a deficit of more than two seconds as he changed down Zhang Zhanshuo to clock the swiftest split of all, 1:43.76.

Not far off was Carson Foster, on 1:43.94 second-man-in for the USA, a clear sign the medley ace wants in on the Paris 4x200m action: his effort marked the first time an American man had dropped below 1:44 in a relay since 2018.

The USA, without its top quartet in the water but with Foster firing his and America’s best since 2018, took bronze in 7:02.08, faster that the USA swam when finishing fourth and out of the medals for the first time ever at an Olympics they’ve attended. On that occasion, Kieran Smith‘s 1:44.74 lead-off was the swiftest split of all four.

Defending champions Great Britain clocked 7:05.09 today for fourth, with Tom Dean and James Guy absent, Matt Richards and Duncan Scott racing in-season, unrested, unshaved, untapered, the moment was a dress rehearsal of particular aspects of preparation for trials and Paris, as Doha is for many others as well.


Men’s 100m butterfly – semis

Women’s 200m backstroke – semis

Men’s 50m freestyle – semis

Women’s 50m butterfly – semis

* – swimmer served a two-year suspension after testing positive for a banned substance

Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *