LONDON (Reuters) - Triple Olympic swimming gold medalist Ranomi Kromowidjojo is hopeful that Dutch relay team mate Inge Dekker will be with her in Rio after undergoing successful cervical cancer surgery.
Dekker, 30, was diagnosed in February and had an operation in March. She is not competing at this week’s European championships at the London Olympic pool but Rio remains her main target.
The swimmer, who has won 4x100 freestyle medals at the last three Games including gold in Beijing in 2008, said this month that her recovery was progressing well but training was more important than racing at this stage.
“I sent her yesterday a message. She’s doing great,” Kromowidjojo, the Olympic 50 and 100 meters freestyle champion, told reporters at an event organized by sponsors Arena on Thursday.
“I think she made the right decision not to compete here in London but keep on training and I hope she will be in Rio. I expect in a positive way to be in Rio with Inge.”
Dekker won bronze in the 4x100 freestyle relay at the 2004 Athens Games and then gold in Beijing with Kromowidjojo in the team for her first Olympics.
In 2012, again with Kromowidjojo and Dekker partnering Femke Heemskerk and Marleen Veldhuis, the Dutch women took silver behind Australia.
Maud van der Meer and Marrit Steenbergen replaced Dekker and Veldhuis, who retired after London, for last year’s world championships in Kazan, Russia, where they again won silver behind the Australians.
However, more than four swimmers are often included in relay teams, with reserves slotted in for the heats before the top four compete in the final.
Kromowidjojo, who suffered viral meningitis in 2010 before winning three golds at that year’s short-course world championships in Dubai, said Dekker’s illness had come as a shock to the whole team.
“We are really focused about staying healthy, doing everything we can to not get injured or sick and then suddenly you hear news about Inge and then you realize something really bad can happen any day and it’s about how you deal with it,” she said.
”They reacted really quickly and she’s back in the pool again, so that’s really good.
“For us, for many years, swimming is most important by far. And then suddenly you realize, well, there’s something else that’s more important.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar