Dutch Steenbergen steams towards Rio relay spot

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Baku, June 25, AZERTAC

Dutch teenager Marrit Steenbergen is dreaming of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games after spoiling Russian Arina Opensheyva's Baku 2015 bid for eight gold medals.

She beat the Russian in the 100m freestyle final on Wednesday – albeit just 45 minutes after the Russian had won 400m freestyle gold – and the pair will go head-to-head again in the 200m semi-final on Thursday night after Steenbergen finished the third-fastest qualifier in the morning heats.

Opesheyva will be favourite again after posting a heat time of two minutes 02.06 seconds while her rival recorded 2:02.47. Holly Hibbott of Great Britain separated them on 2:02.24.

Whatever happens, Steenbergen looks on course to make the 4x100m senior relay team for Rio 2016 as she is now officially no.3 in the Dutch rankings.

"It was amazing," said Netherlands head coach Frank Bosma. "We started this season at 57 seconds and now she’s on 53.9. I never thought she was going to make 53.9.

"We had one goal for 2016, to make it to the relay team. It would be nice if she was fifth or sixth in line for the relay. Now she's no.3 for the Netherlands with Femke and I think she can go faster."

After winning the 100m freestyle gold, the Dutch sprinter admitted: "I didn't really know what to expect because this is my first big international Games.

"It’s a really great feeling. I know she's (Openysheva) a really good swimmer so it wasn't my goal to beat her."

Thursday morning's heats also saw France's Pauline Mahieu and Austria's Caroline Pilhatsch qualify for the semi-final of the women's 50m backstroke ahead of Russian favourite Mariia Kameneva.

A swim-off was needed for the last semi-final qualification place after another Dutch girl, Iris Tjonk, and Britain's Rebecca Sherwin tied on 30.22. Tjonk emerged as the winner.

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