If it is agreeable to me to engage in a return match, I will so indicate at the appropriate time. And if your mode of conduct is in accord with the aforementioned suggestions, I am certain the time will be soon.
Thank you for your forthcoming demonstration of courtesy and consideration.
In the past year, three small, shy Dutch girls from the town of Hilversum (pop. 90,000) have broken 11 world swimming records.
For that matter, they have broken four world records since August 12.
The first of this astonishing trio to swim faster than any female ever swam before was 15-year-old Mary Kok. Mary lived around the corner from the Kapelstraat pool in Hilversum, taught herself to swim when she was 6, and studied ballet until she was 11. In June 1954, when she was a month short of her 14th birthday, Mary became a Dutch heroine by equaling the best time of any man in a big race at Loosdrecht. She followed it by setting Dutch records and outswimming grown men and women in a bewildering sequence of events that exhausted the superlatives of the Dutch press. These exploits left Mary tongue-tied; she could only gasp an embarrassed "Ach!" to the questions of reporters.
Right up with Mary in most of her victories was her friend Atie Voorbij, also 14, a meager little girl from a poor Hilversum family. The third girl, Lenie de Nijs, a year older than Mary and Atie, small and solid, also learned to swim when she was 6, and for nine years swam in Mary's wake. Lenie had gotten so used to being second to Mary that this year, when she won at Loosdrecht, she looked around in disbelief when she climbed out of the pool and asked, "Where's Mary?"
Their first world record came last November when Mary, then the only real headliner, was one of a Dutch team (Atie and Lenie were left out) that set a new mark in the 400-meter medley. Early this year Mary set new world records in the 100-meter butterfly (one minute 13.8 seconds), the 100-yard butterfly (one minute 6.1 seconds) and the individual medley. Two of Mary's records quickly fell; but almost as they did so Atie and Lenie set new ones. In July Atie herself brought the world record for the 100-meter butterfly down to one minute 13.7 seconds.
At Utrecht the girls really performed. Lenie de Nijs swam the 1,500-meter freestyle in the world-record time of 20 minutes, 46.5 seconds. On August 12 Mary Kok at Utrecht set a new world record for the mile freestyle—22 minutes 27.1 seconds. Half an hour later Lenie plunged into the same pool and lowered Mary's record by almost 22 seconds—to 22 minutes 5.5 seconds. Six days later, Lenie set another world record, her third of the month, when she swam the 880-yard freestyle in 10 minutes 58.1 seconds—2.1 seconds faster than Australia's Lorraine Crapp in 1954. And finally, to place their performance outside the realm of probability, just the other day Atie Voorbij lowered the 100-meter butterfly mark to one minute 13.2 seconds.
Nobody knows why the girls of Hilversum swim so fast. In 1940 a veteran Dutch swimming coach, Jan Stender, became club trainer of the newly organized Hilversum Seals (Robben is the Dutch word) and instituted a training program that makes ancient Sparta seem effete. The girls get to bed by 7:30 each night, rise before 6:30, start swimming at 7, and go through the 400-meters crawl, followed by 400 meters with the arms held still, 400 meters with the legs held still, 400 meters on their backs, another series for the butterfly, plus calisthenics and runs along a bridle path. The swimming routine is repeated at midday and in the evening. Stender has been under heavy attack for the pace he set for the girls, especially Mary. In one week she raced in three long-distance swims, made four attempts at records, and competed in four other events. He says, "Do they think I have a chronometer where my heart should be? I know how much the girls can take." But the girls said they liked training. "And how!" said Atie. "I'm not so good at walking."