From the very beginning there was something about this girl. Even now, when the sport’s authorities talk of the talent she kept from the womb, it sounds a little like legend.
From her birth, in Aix en Provence, France, Virginie Dedieu kept the ability to close her nose in water.
"In the womb, the baby has the reflex to close its nose. I have kept this reflex. Normally when you are born, you forget that and that reflex is gone," she says.
For some, hands-free nose-blocking sounds less like a skill than a quirky party trick. But for France’s two-time world synchronised swimming solo champion, it has helped define a career.
Dedieu says she is the only synchronised swimmer in the world who refuses to wear a peg on her nose. "When I first started swimming, I had a terrible feeling wearing the peg. I can’t have a clip on my nose, it is very disturbing for me."
Dedieu has come out of retirement to compete in the FINA World Swimming Championships with something to prove: she wants to know if she can win the title with less than four months’ training.
The 28-year-old retired from the sport two years ago to study interior design but says she needed a new challenge and wanted to add to her world titles from 2003 and 2005.
"I think she’s got something over the audience. They just love her. She can just lean forward, put a finger on her mouth and say ‘sshhh’ and the entire audience is dead silent."