The bout of viral meningitis that wiped out Dutch sprinter Ranomi Kromowidjojo's 2010 might have been just what the doctor ordered in terms of ensuring she flew a little under the radar in 2011 in time for a 2012 revelation and bonanza at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
On 24.10 and 52.75 this year over 50m freestyle and 100m freestyle, the 21-year-old of Surinamese and Indonesian extraction but born and raised in the Netherlands, is the swiftest the world has ever seen in a textile suit - and favourite for both Olympic sprint crowns and a third gold as a member of the 4x100m free relay that aims to keep the title in orange hands.
Asked just How fast can she swim next week, Kromowidjojo told a media conference here in London today: "I'm expecting good races. I'm not focusing on times. I don't feel that much pressure. The most pressure I put on myself. I want to achieve something big and what other people think they're allowed, but the most pressure is coming from myself."
Kromowidjojo, whose father is from Surinam, her grandparents from Indonesia, was rushed to hosital suffering from viral meningitis while on a training camp with coach Jacco Verhaeren in Tenerife in 2010. What doesn't kills you makes you stronger, she suggested.
"It made me a stronger person. It was a very hard time but it only made me stronger," she noted. Verhaeren said that the events of 2010 had dictated that 2011 was a year of building the base for 2012. The workload for the long-term had kept Kromowidjojo, a silver medallist in the 50m and bronze medallist in the 100m at world titles in Shanghai, from reaching full potential in 2011.
"She's definitely in a lot better shape than in Shanghai, which wasn't too bad but not good enough," said Verhaeren. "We've found a very good balance between training and rest and her skills have improved a lot - her starts, turns and under water. She was already good at it, but in all those things, also physically, she made a big step forward."
The latest in a long line of Dutch speedsters, including 2000 Olympic champions Pieter van den Hoogenband and Inge de Bruijn, will face 34-year-old Therese Alshammar, world 50m freestyle champion and a silver medallist in both the 50m and 100m behind De Bruijn back in 2000.
"I was a little child, but of course I remember (their races),'' said Kromowidjojo. "Inge was like an idol for me and I'm looking forward to racing against Therese and also Sarah (Sjostrom, also Sweden). We're going to have some fun races."
No mention of Britta Steffen, the German defending champion in both sprint events: she was across town looking fit and lean and mean once more. Francesa Halsall, on 24.13 over 50m this year, also looked in goods shape as the Brits took their first plunge of the week in the Olympic competition pool today.
The Dutch team, meanwhile, arrived at the Olympic village from a holding camp in Leeds in the north of England. "They are ready. We've had very good preparation. It was very smooth travel by train, so everybody is rested, everybody is fit," Verhaeren said. "We have no major problems, no major injuries or sickness. Everybody could really do the work in training, so it's been good."
On the relay, Verhaeren said it was a Dutch ambition to break their world record of 3:31.72 set at the Rome 2009 suits circus. "Of course, we would like to break it, but you've got to take one step at a time," said Marleen Veldhuis. "First we've got to qualify for the final, then if you touch first in a world record that would be the best. But let's see what happens."