LONDON, July 25 (Reuters) - The tag of favouritism and the heavy expectations of her homeland have failed to deter Ranomi Kromowidjojo from her Olympic ambitions.
The flying Dutchwoman goes into the London Games as the fastest female swimmer in the world and the favourite to win three gold medals.
If everything goes according to plan, the 21-year-old will win the freestyle sprint double and join her team mates to steer the Netherlands to gold in the 4x100 metres freestyle relay.
“I want to achieve something big,” she told a news conference on Wednesday. “I do not feel under that much pressure because the most pressure I put on myself.”
If Kromowidjojo seems ambivalent to the suffocating pressure the Olympics presents, it is perhaps because she has overcome bigger obstacles before.
Two years ago, she was diagnosed with the potentially deadly virus meningitis but survived without any complications and was able to resume her swimming career.
“It made me a stronger person. In 2010, I was seven weeks out of the pool and went easy after coming back,” she said.
“Within three months I was at the same level as before and even better. I thought it was not a big issue to go to the Olympics and swim fast.”
Kromowidjojo won gold medals in relay at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the last two world championships but has never won a long-course global title in an individual event.
She finished second in the 50m and third over 100m at last year’s world championships after coming back from the illness and owns the fastest times in the world this year in both events.
“We did not know what to expect. There can be problems afterwards like dizziness and headaches, loss of concentration,” said Dutch national coach Jacco Verhaeren.
“We started really easy, one step at a time and it paid off way sooner than we expected because the world short course championships and the world championships were great for Rani.”
“She is definitely in much better shape than Shanghai. Her skills have improved, a lot of starts, turns and underwater. In all things and also physically she has made good steps forward.”
Verhaeren has long been a master of guiding Dutch sprinters to Olympic gold, training Pieter van den Hoogenband and Inge de Bruijn to multiple medals, and is confident the Netherlands can add to their stockpile in London.
“We’re looking good. We haven’t had any injury problems in the last four months,” he told Reuters.
“No one’s really got sick, no one’s really got injured. It’s all under control so everyone is really fit and ready to race.” (Editing by Greg Stutchbury)