Kromowidjojo Positioning Herself to Take Sprint Throne; Lochte Set for Tough Double

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By John Lohn

LONDON, August 1. HER name is among the more complicated to pronounce at the Olympic Games, but what's not difficult to understand about Ranomi Kromowidjojo is what she brings to the pool: The woman is fast. Check that: She's incredibly fast.

For the past several months, much of the freestyle discussion in the sport surrounded the Dutch swimmer and her evolution in the top sprinter in the world. Repeatedly producing impressive times, Kromowidjojo topped the global charts heading into the Olympic Games in both the 50 freestyle (24.10) and 100 freestyle (52.75), her efforts rating as textile bests.

Although Kromowidjojo is an Olympic and world champion in relay duty, she has yet to earn a gold medal in a major international competition in an individual event. That scenario could easily change in London, where Kromowidjojo is the favorite for a sprint sweep, exactly what Germany's Britta Steffen pulled off at the Beijing Games.

In pursuit of an individual gold, Kromowidjojo got off to a solid start on Wednesday morning. Racing in the final heat of the 100 free, the 21-year-old was timed in 53.66, good for the fifth slot heading into the semifinals. It was obvious Kromowidjojo was holding back considerably, as she split 51.93 on the end of the Netherlands' silver-medal winning 400 free relay on the first night of action.

Look for the Dutchwoman to turn it up in the semifinals, then make her way to the top step of the podium tomorrow. The only thing missing from Kromowidjojo's portfolio is not far from being filled.

**We've already seen a hard-to-believe double at these Games, in the form of Missy Franklin's 200 freestyle/100 backstroke performance on Monday night. That evening, Franklin raced the semifinals of the 200 free, qualifying for the final, then came back a mere 13 minutes later to win the gold medal in the 100 back.

Now, we get to see Ryan Lochte handle the difficult double he's been preparing to tackle for the past four years. Lochte easily advanced to the semifinals in the 200 backstroke and 200 individual medley and, barring disaster tonight, will move into the championship final of both events tomorrow. That's when he'll go for gold in both with about 20 minutes between races.

Lochte tried to pull off his double in Beijing, too, and was successful enough to prevail in the 200 backstroke and take the bronze medal in the 200 I.M. Since the 2008 Games, Lochte's training and high-intensity meet programs have been designed to ready him for this occasion. If he manages to win a pair of gold medals, it would go down as the best double in the history of the sport.

**The wait for the first sub-2:20 female performance in the 200 breaststroke could soon be over. American Rebecca Soni looked really good in the prelims of the event in which she is the reigning Olympic champion. Soni, who generally churns out fast times in the prelims and semifinals, was clocked in 2:21.40, easily the swiftest mark of the morning.

Soni has been viewed as capable of going 2:19-point for the past couple of years, but has yet to get into that esteemed territory. There is no better place than the Olympics to make it happen.

**The ultimate bridesmaid at the Beijing Olympics with three silver medals behind Michael Phelps, Hungarian Laszlo Cseh has not enjoyed the type of meet many expected. Entering Day Five, Cseh had missed qualifying for the championship final in the 400 individual medley and 200 butterfly. Things got much better in the 200 individual medley.

Cseh qualified in the No. 1 position for the semifinals of the shorter medley, thanks to a time of 1:57.20. While he is battling for bronze at best behind Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps, Cseh won't be discouraged by his poor results so far. At last summer's World Championships, he also failed to qualify for the finals in the 400 IM and 200 fly, but finished third in the 200 IM.

**It's not always about placement at the Olympics. Representing Turkey, Derya Buyukuncu made his sixth Olympic appearance, finishing 33rd in the preliminaries of the 200 backstroke. He has competed in every Games since the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

**The United States will be the favorite for the gold medal in the women's 800 freestyle relay tonight, and the Stars and Stripes got that event off to a solid start in the morning session. The foursome of Lauren Perdue, Shannon Vreeland, Alyssa Anderson and Dana Vollmer was timed in 7:50.75, second behind Australia (7:49.44). With Allison Schmitt and Missy Franklin being added to the final, it's hard seeing another country stay with the United States, especially with Schmitt coming off a 1:53.61 showing in the 200 free.

Follow John Lohn on Twitter: @JohnLohn

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