Ultra Swim Swimmer of the Month is a recurring SwimSwam feature shedding light on a U.S.-based swimmer who has proven themselves over the past month. As with any item of recognition, Swimmer of the Month is a subjective exercise meant to highlight one athlete whose work holds noteworthy context – perhaps a swimmer who was visibly outperforming other swimmers over the month, or one whose accomplishments slipped through the cracks among other high-profile swims. If your favorite athlete wasn’t selected, feel free to respectfully recognize them in our comment section.
Dutch sprinter Inge de Bruijn burst onto the international scene as an 17-year-old in 1991. But a long-running career that spanned four Olympic cycles and nearly 16 years on the international stage arguably peaked in the year 2000, when de Bruijn set five world records within a nine-day span.
De Bruijn entered the year as one of the world’s top swimmers, having won European Championships gold in the 50 free and 100 fly in 1999. But she stepped things up a notch at the turn of the millennium with a world record rampage.
It started inauspiciously enough. On May 20, swimming at the Mare Nostrum meet in Monte Carlo, de Bruijn became the first woman under 26 seconds in the 50 fly. At the time, the 50s of the non-free strokes were relatively new events to the world record books – de Bruijn is the first official record-holder on record in the women’s 50 fly, with a 26.54 set in 1996. Sweden’s Anna-Karin Kammerling broke that mark twice in 1999, but de Bruijn bested Kammerling’s record by almost half a second with her 25.83.
Six days later, swimming at the Super Speedo Grand Prix in England, de Bruijn lowered that time again, taking two more tenths off to go 25.64. That record would stand for two more years before Kammerling nabbed it back.
Here’s where the rampage really begins. At that very same meet, and on the very same day, de Bruijn also tied the 50 free world record, blasting a 24.51 to match a six-year-old mark from China’s Le Jingyi. Just one day later, de Bruijn obliterated the 100 fly world record by more than a second. De Bruijn was 56.69, almost 1.2 seconds faster than Jenny Thompson had been a year earlier, while setting the world mark.
And to make it an even 50/100 free/fly sweep, de Bruijn returned one day later to go 53.80 in the 100 free, becoming the first woman ever under 54 seconds and taking down a 54.01 world record set by China’s Le in 1994.
Inge de Bruijn World Records: May 2000
- May 20: 50 fly – 25.83 (prev. record 26.29)
- May 26: 50 fly – 25.64 (prev. record 25.83)
- May 26: 50 free – 24.51 (prev. record 24.51)
- May 27: 100 fly – 56.69 (prev. record 57.88)
- May 28: 100 free – 53.80 (prev. record 54.01)
De Bruijn would reset several of those records multiple times over a banner year 2000. She broke the 50 free mark three more times, concluding with a 24.13 at the Olympics. No one would better than mark for another eight years.
At those same Olympics, de Bruijn went 53.77 to break the 100 free mark again, and it would stand for four more years. De Bruijn also broke the 100 fly two more times in 2000, leaving it at a 56.61 that wouldn’t be touched until the peak of the super-suit era in 2009.
Inge de Bruijn World Record Durations
- 50 free: held WR from May 2000 – March 2008
- 100 free: held WR from May 2000 – March 2004
- 50 fly: held WR from June 1996 – July 1999, then from May 2000 – July 2002
- 100 fly: held WR from May 2000 – July 2009
The summer after her explosive May, de Bruijn won Olympic golds in the 50 free, 100 free, and 100 fly, along with a silver in the 4×100 free relay – one of the finest single years of a swimming career the sport has ever seen. She’d win three more Worlds golds in 2001 (50/100 free, 50 fly), and repeat as 50 free and 50 fly world champion in 2003.
Just shy of her 31st birthday, de Bruijn competed in her final Olympics, winning yet another 50 free gold in Athens. That capped two Olympic golds, two world titles, and one European title in the 50 free over a six-year span.
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