Dutch swimmer Inge de Bruijn stands today as one of the most legendary swimmers in history. At the height of her career, she dominated the sprint events, setting multiple world records. She is also one of just a few females to have earned a gold medal in three individual events at a single Olympics, by virtue of her performance at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
Although de Bruijn enjoyed much success in her career, she had a bit of a rocky start. She qualified for her first Olympics in 1992, but had disappointing results, finishing 8th in both the 50m freestyle and as part of the Dutch 400m medley relay. She then failed to qualify for the 1996 Dutch Olympic team.
De Bruijn redeemed herself in a big way at the Sydney Olympics, however, winning both of the sprint freestyle races and the 100m butterfly.
A year later at the 2001 World Championships in Fukoka, Japan, de Bruijn successfully defended her Olympic titles in the sprint freestyles with Worlds titles. She also added a win in the 50m butterfly, earning her the label of “Queen of the Sprint.”
Her first gold medal of the meet came in the 100m freestyle. In the first 50 meters, she had a slight edge over Katrin Meissner of Germany. The rest of the field began to creep up on the two of them over the course of the second 50, but de Bruijn showed no signs of slowing down. While her final time of 54.18 was a few tenths off her world record of 53.77, it was enough to secure the win. Germany swept the rest of the podium spots thanks to Meissner’s second-place finish and Sandra Völker’s third-place finish.
De Bruijn’s success continued into the 2004 Olympics in Athens, where she repeated as Olympic champion in the 50 freestyle and earned a silver in the 100 freestyle. She also added two bronzes in the 100 butterfly and as part of the 400 free relay. She retired from competitive swimming in 2007.