The Hurricane women’s swimming team has big plans for this upcoming season, and those plans revolve around a former Olympian in junior Manon van Rooijen.
Van Rooijen, who last year broke the school record in the 200 yard freestyle with a time of 1:48.98, will be a fixture in the 50 yard, 100 yard, and 200 yard freestyle, as well as the relay events. Coach James Sweeney will depend on her for leadership in and out of the pool.
“Manon takes everything in a professional manner,” Sweeney said. “She works hard and has high dreams and aspirations.”
Hailing from Westdorpe, Holland, van Rooijen has been swimming since she was around eight years old. During prep school at Koningin Wilhelmina College she broke the school record in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:48.97.
Van Rooijen admits that she misses her hometown, but she has plenty of people and work to keep her from thinking about it too much.
“I miss my home constantly and I usually only get to return for Christmas,” van Rooijen said. “But I am settled in at UM so I have gotten used to being far away from home.”
The highlight of van Rooijen’s swimming career would be her participation and silver medal in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Her relay team was able to fend off tough competition from all over the world to take home the silver medal.
“It was very awkward standing up on the medal stand,” van Rooijen said. “I looked around and saw all of my swimming idols. It was an overwhelming experience.”
Van Rooijen plans on qualifying for and competing in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.
“I definitely want to try for it [the Olympics] and experience it more,” van Rooijen said. “The first time was a bit of a blur because everything was so new and exciting. This time around I want to take it all in.”
As for this season with the Hurricanes, van Rooijen hopes to move up higher in the NCAA rankings and constantly improve.
“My goals for this year are to move into the Top 3 in the NCAA, improve my own times, and break my own record in the 200,” van Rooijen said.
“We want Manon to qualify for the NCAAs in the Indiana Invite and U.S. Open in Minneapolis,” Coach Sweeney said. “Those will be big tournaments for the whole team.”
Van Rooijen feels the team as a whole looks very good, and some new faces will be sure to contribute immediately.
“We have a number of new freshmen and transfer students that are going to be big for us this season,” van Rooijen said. “We also increased in terms of the number of swimmers, so now we can compare to the larger programs like Rutgers and Notre Dame.”
Always having to set an example in and out of the pool, van Rooijen works hard in the classroom to send a message to the other swimmers.
“It is hard managing time between schoolwork and swimming,” van Rooijen said. “But I have to set an example for the other girls and help to eliminate stereotypes about student-athletes not taking their classes seriously.”
“Manon works very hard to keep her grades up,” Sweeney said. “She is a determined kid and a positive influence on the rest of the team.”
In and out of the pool, Manon van Rooijen has been and will continue to be successful. Not many college athletes have Olympic medals to boast about, and don’t be surprised if you see her on the medal stand in 2004.
You can reach Erik Kalis at email@example.com.