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Netherlands aims for top ten in Olympics medal table

(Xinhua)

11:03, April 18, 2012

THE HAGUE, April 18 (Xinhua) -- With 100 days remaining before the start of the Olympic Games in London, the Olympic fever in the Netherlands is rising with ambitions.

Just like in 2008 in Beijing, the goal for London is a place in the top 10 of the final medal table. Four years ago the Netherlands finished 12th with seven gold, five silver and four bronze medals.

The seven golds of 2008 were captured by the hockey women, dressage equestrian Anky van Grunsven, rowing duo Marit van Eupen/ Kirsten van der Kolk, the waterpolo women's team, cyclist Marianne Vos (points race), the 4x100m freestyle relay swimming women's team and swimmer Maarten van der Weijden (10km open water).

In London the Dutch are aiming for medals in mainly the same sports. The major Dutch swimming ace Ranomi Kromowidjojo showcased her tremendous form during the Swim Cup tournament in Eindhoven last weekend.

The 21-year-old swimmer confirmed as one of the favorites for the 2012 Olympic Games by winning the 50 and 100 meters freestyle in world textile records.

On the final day of the four-day swimming event, Kromowidjojo set a new personal record of 24.10 seconds in the final of the 50m free and one day before she was as impressive by winning the 100m free in a Dutch record and a world best textile time of 52.75.

"Looking at the Olympics I now know that I am able to do this," Kromowidjojo said afterwards. "That gives a lot of confidence. Maybe I am the favorite now, but that does not matter."

With Kromowidjojo and also the likes of Marleen Veldhuis, Inge Dekker and Femke Heemskerk the Dutch women are favorites to defend their 4x100m freestyle relay title. They currently hold the world record in this event (3:31.72, Rome, 2009).

Cyclist Marianne Vos is also aiming for another gold, but not in the same event as in Beijing. Since the points race is not part of the 2012 Games, Vos will focus on the road race and the time trial in London.

Dutch dressage legend Anky van Grunsven announced last week that she wanted to try to qualify for the Olympics once again. The 44-year-old equestrian won a gold medal in the 2000 Olympics with her horse Bonfire and gold in the 2004 Olympics and in the 2008 Olympics with Salinero.

In London she wants to compete with 18-year-old Salinero.

"Olympic gold with the team is one of the few things missing from my list of achievements," Van Grunsven declared. Only one Dutch equestrian can ride the individual competition with European champion Adelinde Cornelissen currently being the No. 1 with Parzival.

The Dutch hockey women, reigning Olympic champions, had to settle for a disappointing third place during the Champions Trophy in Argentina in February this year, but are hoping for more next summer. The Dutch men, first on the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, had a noisy preparation with head coach Paul van Ass first axing legends Teun de Nooijer and Taeke Taekema in January and reselecting them in March.

The possible other Dutch medals are supposed to be delivered by sports the Dutch are traditionally good at like sailing, with Dorian van Rijsselberghe (RS:X men), Lobke Berkhout/Lisa Westerhof (470 women) and Marit Bouwmeester (Laser Radial women), or judo, with Henk Grol (-100kg men), Edith Bosch (-70kg women) or Dex Elmont (-73kg men). Maybe the Dutch rowers or track cyclists will also add another medal to the Dutch list.

The Netherlands have never been a good gymnastics nation at the Olympics, but this time Epke Zonderland might be in for a surprise. Zonderland became European champion on horizontal bar in 2011 and grabbed a silver medal during the World Championships in 2010. However, Zonderland has to show some results this year, otherwise Jeffrey Wammes will go on behalf of the Netherlands.

"We are dedicated to deliver maximum performances," Maurits Hendriks, chief of the Dutch Olympic squad said last year. "We are working on a broad team of medal contenders. Our goal is the top 10."

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