Ranomi Kromowidjojo (20 August, 1990) is a Dutch freestyle, butterfly, and relay swimmer and is among the fastest sprinters in the world at the 50m and 100m distances.
Ranomi first started appearing on international podiums as a 14-year-old when she won a bronze medal in the 50m freestyle at the 2005 European Junior Championships in Budapest. A year later at the same championships in Palma di Majorca she went one place better with a silver in the same event, also winning a bronze in the 50m butterfly. In 2006 she also made her international senior debut at the Budapest European LC Championships, where she won her first international senior medal – a silver – in the 4x100 m freestyle relay, three weeks before her 16th birthday. Since then she has been an established member of the virtually unrivalled Dutch freestyle relay team.
2007 was a landmark year for Ranomi as she earned her first World LC Championship medal (bronze) in the 4x100m freestyle in Melbourne, and then broke her first world record as part of the same relay team at the Dutch Open Swim Cup. The year ended on a high with her first senior international gold medal – and another world record – in the 4x50m freestyle relay at the European SC Championships in Debrecen, Hungary.
Before 2008 was four months old, Ranomi and her relay teammates had two more gold medals and two more world records – first, in the 4x100m freestyle at the European Aquatics Championships in Eindhoven, and a month later in the 4x200m freestyle at the World SC Championships in Manchester. An Olympic gold medal and Olympic record followed in the 4x100m freestyle relay in Beijing, before she broke her first individual national record at the Eindhoven Swim Cup in the 50m backstroke (LC). Like the previous year, 2008 ended with more strong performances, this time at the European SC Championships in Rijeka, Croatia – gold medals in the 4x50m freestyle and 4x50m medley relays, and an individual bronze medal in the 100m freestyle. To cap it all, the relay team broke the 4x100m freestyle world record yet again at the Dutch Short Course Championships in Amsterdam.
Things just kept getting better for Ranomi and her teammates with three more relay world records in 2009 – the 4x100m freestyle at the World LC Championships in Rome, and the 4x50m freestyle and 4x50m medley at the European SC Championships in Istanbul. The year also marked Kromowidjojo’s arrival as an individual competitor on the international podium – in Istanbul she won silver medals in both the 50m and 100m freestyle events.
Ranomi’s individual achievements of 2009 were simply precursors to her growth in 2010, when she exploded on to the freestyle sprint scene with four gold medals in the 50m and 100m freestyle events. At the European SC Championships in Eindhoven, she swam the fastest-ever textile-suit 50m freestyle (just 33 hundredths of a second outside the world record), and was less than half a second outside the world 100m mark. At the World SC Championships in Dubai, she bettered her Eindhoven best-ever textile performance, edging to within 0.12 seconds of the 50m record, and broke the championship record at the 100m distance. For good measure, her relay team won gold in both the 4x50m freestyle and 4x50m medley events in Eindhoven, and in winning gold in the 4x100m freestyle relay in Dubai, broke the championship record while coming within 0.33 seconds of their own world record. Her anchor leg of the 4x50m medley in Eindhoven at 22.70s was the fastest ever 50m free split, matching her hi-tech suit Istanbul time of the previous year. She ended 2010 with the fastest 100m freestyle time, but was unfortunately unable to take part in the European Championships in Budapest due to a bout of meningitis picked up at a training camp in Tenerife.
Going into the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai, Ranomi is well-placed to medal, with the year-to-date’s fastest 50m freestyle, fifth fastest 100m freestyle, and fourth fastest 50m butterfly.
Ranomi is coached by the world-renowned Jacco Verhaeren, who led Dutch swimming legend Pieter Van den Hoogenband to three Olympic gold medals, and is also the man behind the phenomenal Dutch women’s relay teams. With the London Olympics now looming on the horizon, it seems Ranomi’s prodigious talent is blossoming under Verhaeren ‘s experienced hand at just the right time, as she starts to add world-class individual accolades to her remarkable relay records. She might just be the one to beat come next year’s Summer Olympics.
When she was three years old, Ranomi Kromowidjojo’s parents bought her a swimming costume. She put it on, jumped straight in, and promptly sank to the bottom of the pool. She thought that it (the swimming costume) was enough to make her float, but since it didn’t, her mother had to jump in pull her out. Far from being spooked by the episode, Ranomi rose gasping to the surface … asking for more. And so began the career of the Dutch girl with the unpronounceable surname.
With a lineage that includes grandparents from Java (Indonesia) and a father from Suriname (South America) – both of which have Dutch colonial links in their history – Ranomi is allowed to have an exotic name. In fact her first name is also unusual, created as it was by her parents. Uncommon names aside, she had a fairly ‘normal’ European upbringing in Groningen, Holland, before moving to Eindhoven, where she trains with coach Jacco Verhaeren, sporting director of the Dutch swimming team and the National Swimming Institute. (In June 2011 Verhaeren was named sports coach of the decade by NLcoach, the Dutch coaches knowledge and network organisation.)
Ranomi’s associations with diverse cultures extend beyond just those of her forebears, even if they have nothing to do with her bloodline. The tattoo on her arm, for instance, is the Chinese symbol for water. This in itself is not surprising. What is rather curious, however, is that the symbol is made up by the western symbols for “1” and “K”. The connotations are obvious, and indicative of her ambitions.
She’s also learning Italian, a language and country for which she has developed a particular affinity. The musicality of the language, along with the “full-bodied” way with which its citizens speak it, have captured Ranomi’s imagination, and when food and fashion are thrown in, she can’t resist.
Even when she contracts life-threatening diseases, she finds exotic places to do so. In 2010, on a training camp in Tenerife, she came down with viral meningitis, was confined to a hospital for a week, and missed the European Championships in Budapest. At first she didn’t realize how sick she was, and with the severe headache she wasn’t able to move her head, or even cry. When she heard that there could be physical, motor-related side-effects, she vowed to work methodically to get herself back to good health as soon as possible. The first thing she did upon leaving the hospital was get in the pool to make sure she hadn’t “lost” anything. In spite of it being a painful and strange experience, she was relieved to find that she could still swim.
If anything, her recovery has made her even stronger. Within short order she was back to her best, conquering her opposition at the year-end Dubai World SC Championships. One step back, two steps forward, she says. Rather a scary assessment for her rivals, one might say. For when a twenty-year-old with 2010’s fastest 100m freestyle, recovering from a life-threatening bout of viral meningitis, reports that her sickness helped her move forward rather than backward, they (her rivals) might well agree – albeit very nervously – with her own personal reflection on the positive outcome her ordeal: That’s weird.