Dutch distance legend's swansong in water

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 October, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 October, 2005, 12:00am

Dutch legend Edith van Dijk competes in her last race in this morning's Fina Marathon World Cup at Repulse Bay as she brings down the curtain on one of the most outstanding careers in long-distance swimming.

The 32-year-old will sign off in style with her third World Cup title in the bag as she competes against a world-class field in the 14th and final leg of the series over 10km.

'This is my last race,' declared Van Dijk, who ends 16 years of top-class competition in open water.

'I have won everything I could win and I have no regrets on retiring. I think it is time for me to quit. We have had 14 races this year and next year, I think it's going to be increased to 20 races,' she said.

Van Dijk has had a most successful career, competing in eight world championships and seven European championships, yielding six gold medals at the worlds and three World Cup triumphs.

'I am not sure what I am going to do after swimming. Perhaps I will become a coach. But I plan to finish my Masters degree in special economics and urban management and another degree in sports nutrition. It will be very different for me after competition,' said the Dutch athlete, who hails from a town 50km from Amsterdam.

Van Dijk might be signing off on a high, but she leaves competition at a time when the sport could become an Olympic event in London in 2012. 'I think I will be too old for the Olympics in 2012 because the sport is not going to be held in Beijing in 2008. I always wanted to swim for my country at the Olympics, but I have no regrets because I think I have had a very good career.

'After retiring, I plan on having a family. I now have time for something new,' she said.

Van Dijk is already assured of her third World Cup success as she has an unassailable lead in front of Italy's Federicka Vitale, who is not competing in Hong Kong. She is also way out in front of Germany's Britta Kamrau-Courestein and Russia's Ksenia Popova, who are third and fourth in the standings.

'All I have to do is jump into the water and swim and I have won,' said Van Dijk, who was third overall in the sixth leg of the World Cup series in Ohrid, Macedonia, competing against men.

'It's very rare for a woman to share the podium with the men. It was another proud moment for me,' she said.

Van Dijk won her first gold medals in Hawaii in 2000 when she won the 10km and 25km events. She also won bronze in the five kilometre race. She won gold again in 2002 and 2003 (both 25km) and this year showed she had not lost form by claiming another two golds at this year's the world championships in Montreal in July (10km and 25km).

Meanwhile, Bulgaria's Petar Stoychev, Frenchman Gilles Rondy and Australian Brendan Capell will be among the favourites to win this morning's race.