Glenelg High junior Dan Van Hemert captured four gold medals at the National Junior Olympics Swimming Championships earlier this month inBuffalo, N.Y., for efforts that included a meet record in the 200-yard butterfly and an Olympic Trials qualifying time in the 1,000 freestyle.
However, Van Hemert's best shot at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, could be offered by another country -- Holland.
His parents, Leo and Julie, are natives of Holland, giving the 16-year-old dual citizenship. His uncle, William Van Hemert, a sportswriter for the General Dutch Sports Press, has contacted Dutch swimmingauthorities to find out the criteria to qualify for Holland's Olympic swim team.
"Obviously, I'd like to represent the United States in the Olympics if I could, but I'm only 16. My times are pretty good for someone my age but don't quite stack up to the college guys yet,"said Van Hemert, a member of the Retriever Aquatic Club.
"I'm notreal sure about all the consequences, but I'd like to swim for Holland in 1992 and the U.S. in 1996, if that's possible," he said. "Realistically, I don't have a chance of winning any medals in 1992, but itwould be an outstanding experience."
At the National Junior Olympics meet, Van Hemert clocked winning times in the 500 freestyle (4 minutes, 28.47 seconds), 1,000 freestyle (9:13.00), 200 butterfly (1:48.27) and 200 individual medley (1:51.63).
In addition, he recordedtimes of 45.70 in the 100 free to lead off his team's 400 free relay; 1:40.06 in the 200 free to lead off the 800 free relay; and 49.94 in a 100 butterfly time trial.
These times rank him among the fastest swimmers in Holland, a nation 1 1/2 times the size of Maryland.
All seven of his swims broke state records. More than likely his name will appear at the top of the national Top 16 rankings for the 1991winter season in several events in his 15-16 boys age group. The list, which ranks the 16 fastest swimmers per event in five different age brackets, will be published in late summer.
"I hoped to swim well at NJOs, but this is way over what I expected," Van Hemert said. "After each race, I'd walk over to my coach and he'd have this big smile on his face."
"Dan has so much talent," Retrievers coach Sid Burkot said. "He's very diversified as a swimmer -- from distance freestyle to butterfly to individual medley. When he realizes his full potential,
he'll be one of the best swimmers in the country, not just at the Junior National level."
"He's his own person," assistant coach David Amato said. "Dan knows what he wants to accomplish and whathe has to do to reach his goals. When he's on, he really cranks."
This month, the Retrievers sent 16 swimmers to Junior Nationals and 10 to Senior Nationals in Federal Way, Wash. At the Junior Nationals,one of Van Hemert's teammates, Elysia Moreland of Columbia, 14, finished first in the 400 individual medley. At the Buffalo meet, Van Hemert qualified for his first Senior National Championships in five events.
"I did (my) best times at Seniors, but Juniors was a better meet for me all-around," he said.
His training consists of six 2 1/2-hour night practices each week, plus three one-hour weightlifting sessions before school.
The honor roll student, who has a 3.2 grade-point average, carries a course load that includes physics, college algebra and Gifted and Talented English and U.S. studies.
"Swimming is a year-round sport. We only get a two-week break in April and a month's break in August," he said. "Sometimes I wonder why I put myself through all this. I call it the 'I don't care' flu. But each year I get a little bit faster and am accomplishing my goals. That's what makes it worthwhile."
Another honor Van Hemert recently received is an invitation from the U.S. Swimming Committee to attend the Olympic Festival this summer in Los Angeles. The festival is a one-week training camp for the nation's top swimmers ages 18 and younger.
Next year Van Hemert will be one of the most highly recruited seniors inthe country. He hopes to attend the University of Southern California and be admitted into the college's filmmaking school.
Last weekend, the future filmmaker appeared as the Dread Pirate Roberts in scenes from "Princess Bride" during Glenelg High's annual dessert theater-- "It's like a dinner theater, but we only serve dessert," he explained.
For Van Hemert, standing in the stage spotlight is an entirely different feeling than the one he gets on the starting blocks during the finals of a big meet.
"I get nervous big-time before I go onstage," he said. "In both swimming and drama, you have a lot of people watching you perform. But in acting, there are more things to remember, like your lines and cues and where to stand.
"In swimming you just go as fast as you can."