Dutch swimmer Sharon van Rouwendaal has kicked off the Romanian International Swimming Championships with a National-Record crushing swim in the 1500 meter freestyle.
She hails from a country renowned for having the world’s best sprint program of the 2000’s, but she’s gradually pushed herself further-and-further, including the 16:03.37 she swam on Thursday that broke her own National Record by 12 seconds, clearing her old mark of 16:15.09 done in April at the French Championships. This ranks her as the 26th-fastest performer of all-time in the event, and it seems unlikely that the versatile van Rouwendaal has neared her max in the event.
The 21-year old broke through in 2010 as a 200 meter backstroker, which is an event that she took bronze in at the 2011 World Championships. More recently, however, she’s switched her focus to longer and longer freestyle races, and last year cemented that shif twith a win in the open water 10k at the European Aquatic Championships – the premier distance in the open water.
She’ll be one of the select swimmers who have a chance to medal in both open water and pool swimming at the World Championships, as those improvements in open water have now come roaring through in her pool swims. The American Katie Ledecky is still dominant in the pool distance races, and while van Rouwendaal is four years older and has nowhere near Ledecky’s times yet, the PSV trainee is still on an upward trajectory in her swimming, and is on pace to see continued huge time drops between now and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
She’s been touted as one of the few legitimate threats to Ledecky in the distance freestyles in the foreseeable future because of her unique combination of speed and endurance in the freestyle races. Not that her times are anywhere near the American’s, but then again, nobody in the world comes close to Ledecky at the moment, so potential and projection are all that’s left to make the argument.