It seems hard to believe, but Arno Kamminga has only ‘taken swimming seriously’ since 2017.
Since then, the Dutchman has landed two individual short course European titles, two long course European silver medals, two Olympic silver medals at Tokyo 2020 in 2021, and firmly established himself as the second best breaststroker in the world after Adam Peaty.
The Brit, who will miss the 2022 FINA World Championships through injury, specializes in the 50 and 100-metre sprints, while Kamminga’s best distance is in fact the 200m.
But victory is anything but a foregone conclusion for the Netherlands star. The likes of Australian 200m breaststroke world record holder and Olympic champion Zac Stubblety-Cook, Michael Andrews of the USA, and Peaty’s fellow Great Britain swimmer, James Wilby, will also be confident in their chances of taking home gold.
Kamminga could make history in Budapest, but how well do you know the man behind the goggles?
Arno Kamminga won 100 and 200 breaststroke silver at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics
Picture by www.borisstreubel.de
1 – Arno Kamminga used to be ‘the lazy guy’ in swimming practice
There was no indication that Kamminga would become a star during his early teenage years.
He didn’t enjoy the sport, and only took part in swimming in order to pass time.
“I was more the lazy guy. I felt like I never had a real purpose in life, I was just doing stuff,” he told Swimming World.
“When I talk to my old teammates when I was swimming at the club and they’re like ‘we don’t get it. You were always the one first out of the water showering’ and always that I was showering for an hour and then the water turned cold.”
“Showering was better than the training: I always found ways to get out of practice.”
2 – Swim star got serious after family tragedy
In September 2011, Kamminga’s mother Marleen died of breast cancer when he was 15.
Swimming helped to ease the pain, but his lack of real dedication to competing meant that he didn’t make any European or world junior teams.
But missing out on qualification for the Rio 2016 Olympics by 0.8s proved to be the moment Kamminga’s career changed.
“I wasn’t really expecting to make the team. It was more that I was debating whether to go forward with swimming, if I was ever going to make it,” he continued to Swimming World.
“For me it was one last shot so I said to myself, ‘I’m going to give myself one year to make it and if I make it then of course I’m going to continue swimming and if I don’t make it I know I’ve tried, it’s not for me and I can enjoy the rest of my life.”
Within a few months, the Katwijk native had broken the Dutch 200m breaststroke record, competed at the 2017 World Championships in the Olympic distance long course pool, before winning European Short-Course Championships gold as part of the Netherlands’ 4×1 mixed medley relay.
3 – Dutchman a future double world record holder?
While Peaty owns 24 of the 29-fastest swims in the history of the men’s 100m butterfly, Kamminga owns four of the remaining five (Michael Andrew has the other).
The Dutchman is the only swimmer other than the two-time Olympic champion to have cracked the 58-second barrier, having done so on two occasions.
There is just one year in age difference between the duo, meaning that there could be an amazing showdown between them at the Paris 2024 Olympics and beyond.
In the 200m breaststroke, Kamminga’s personal best of 2:06.85 is just 0.1 slower than Stubblety-Cook’s world record.
Zac Stubblety-Cook (right) after beating Arno Kamminga (left) at in the 200 breaststroke final.
Picture by getty images Germany +491728296845
4 – Arno Kamminga would rather race Adam Peaty at Worlds
While Kamminga may get his first taste of being a long course world champion this summer, he said that he would rather beat Peaty head-on.
“I’d rather race him head on. I’d rather beat him instead of maybe getting my first championship without him,” he told SwimSwam.
“It’s just fun to race. I haven’t raced a lot of competitions with top level breaststrokers, so this is the first time in a few months that I get to race others at the highest level. I love to race others instead of focusing on your own race.”
5 – Kamminga doesn’t touch water before races
Arno Kamminga is almost totally unique in professional swimming in that he doesn’t get in the water before his races.
Instead, he just stretches on a mat away from the other competitors.
While this tactic wouldn’t be considered too much of a hindrance in the shorter sprints, it’s highly unusual not to get in the water before a 200m race.
“I don’t swim during the warm up, ever,” he told the SwimSwam Podcast. “I just do dry land and that’s it. I have been doing that for 6, 7 years, and I’ve really perfected it. Even in the 200, I don’t get in the water.
“It started with a joke. One day at practice our coach said we’re going to do a 25m length cold turkey (without getting the water first). The week before we had done it and I was like half a second faster, a massive PB.
“Nowadays I start an hour before the race with yoga, and then the stuff to get the body warmer, and that’s it.
“Sometimes the pool is really cold or really crowded and people are really complaining about it, and I’m like, ‘Good luck!'”