July 2006 was a month to remember for a 15 year old called Ranomi Kromowidjojo.
A silver for the Dutch teenager in the 50m freestyle was accompanied by bronze in the butterfly dash at the European Junior Championships in Palma de Mallorca.
Three weeks later, the teenager made her senior international debut at the European Championships in Budapest and emerged with a silver medal as one quarter of the Dutch 4x100m freestyle relay.
Still just 16, Ranomi won relay bronze at the World Championships in Melbourne the following year before she wrote her name into the history books in 2008.
First up were the European Championships in Eindhoven in her native Netherlands where the 4x100m freestyle relay not only won gold but broke the world record in the process.
Then on to Beijing where the four women won the Olympic title days before Ranomi’s 18th birthday.
Since then the Dutch relay has won two more world titles – with another world record in 2009 – silver at the 2012 Olympics and bronze at the last World Championships in Barcelona.
So, what is key to the team’s consistent success?
“I don’t think there are secrets,” muses Ranomi, now 24.
“I think we are lucky in the Netherlands: we have a lot of female swimmers who swim the 50 and 100 freestyle so we’ve had good swimmers for a few years for that squad and numbers five, six and seven also.
“Since 2006 we have had a really good relay. Three or four are still in there and that is really special.
“I think we are a really strong team. In a relay we are a team and then on other days we are rivals. When we are a relay it is just one team so there is no rivalry or anything like that.”
Inge Dekker has been on every medal-winning relay team with Ranomi since 2006 with Femke Heemskerk coming in a year later with the trio all set for the World Championships in Kazan.
For Ranomi, an essential element for relay success is regard for your fellow team members rather than close friendship out of the pool.
“We can get along really well with each other, not like best friends but I think respect is the most important thing.
“We respect each other and each others choices and differences.
“And when you are ready to race then you are wanting to achieve something.”
Neither do they train much on technical relay aspects such as changeovers but instead four speedy women on top of their game is paramount.
“It’s not like a team sport because in a relay you have to swim your own thing and the one who is swimming has to finish really strong so the one who is on the block can take over really fast.
“I think it is really important the swimmers are really in a good shape and respect each other and really want to swim for each other.”
And individual success as opposed to team achievements?
“It looks like I am more happy in a relay team because you can share your happiness and your emotions because you are four happy girls.
“But individual is more important.”
“Kazan, a mixture of swimming and flolklore”: find out more about the city!