During this season I ended up in the top 6 on the 100m and top 3 for the 200 meters of the world and I participated in 18 races. In every single one of these races, I learned something new.
I learned so much that it lead to a ticket to the Tokyo Paralympics. And what I like best about the current situation is that I did it my way. To achieve this I had to put myself first and make a lot of adjustments, to my environment, my team, and my equipment. I am so proud that I managed to do this. Especially when I look at the state I was in when I started training with Joep in June 2020.
Back then one stip-up felt like too much. The process I went through taught me that you have to be in a good headspace to be able to use your body at its maximum potential. To get there I needed to go back to basics.
On top of all of this, we had to deal with all the COVID-19 issues and roadblocks. For a time I wasn’t even allowed to complete my power sessions in Vught. With no clear alternative at had, I had to find out what was possible.
Luckily Brabant Sport quickly helped me out by making TeamNL Centre South available to me for my Power sessions in the time the COVID-measures prevented me to train at my own club, PH.
Every setback you overcome makes you stronger and brings wisdom.
The partnership between Joep and Keith knew its ups and downs, as every partnership does. They didn’t choose each other, I did that. This situation created some friction, but honestly, I think it was a good kind of friction. It really had a lot of value and actually helped with my road to Tokyo.
Because of friction you look beyond the obvious and find better alternatives.
A good example of this friction was Keith’s standardization approach, while Joep wanted to bring variation into my training. Standardization is the way to go to improve the basics and helps with needed focus. While variation keeps things fresh and makes you more flexible in the ways you can tackle a challenge.
But this year was about the basics, which was really tough on me, but it created a strong foundation for me to build on.
And if it isn’t challenging, is it really worth doing at all?
Now I am finishing up pre-camp in Chiba, Japan. I feel in shape and I feel fast, it feels like everything is coming together. Tomorrow we leave for the Paralympic village and my task now is to stay as fast and sharp as I feel right now. Maybe even sharpen that edge a little bit more.
Most of TeamNL is loads of fun, which makes this whole experience one I will never forget. Because sharing the experience is important and it’s the best way to create memories.
I am really looking forwards to the Paralympics and I intend to shine bright. Most of all though, I want to enjoy the whole experience, because no one can take it away from me!
When I look back on my journey to Paralympic top sprintster, the title should actually be; ‘The journey to myself’. In elite sports you are dependent on yourself, so if you drop the ball physically or mentally, you will immediately feel that during the race.
May 8, I opened the season in Lisse (the Netherlands) with a false start and the following week was the Grand Prix in Nottwill and my racing season started far from what I had in mind.
I tensed up during the race. Also, my preparation for racing was far from optimal. I a few aches and pains such as my tibial and SI joint in the lower back. This resulted in a loss of five weeks of track training. Only a few weeks before the competition season.
Another issue was that Keith could not come to the Netherlands and thus I couldn’t continue the upward line set in Stellenbosch. As a result, I lost an edge which I found in South-Africa. It is really time for Keith to over here, even if only to meet and catch up with Joep.
To make things even more complex, my orthopedic technician was away for three months to help soldiers in Armenia get back on their feet. As a result, my tube and blade are not ready for the competition season. My blade is too far from the tube and because of this you see a swing in my blade that costs energy. Also, this does not help me check my blade. I’m just glad this’ll be resolved after the European Championship.
Despite all these issues, I am still ahead of schedule and we have enough time to get to the competition level.
In Nottwill I qualified for the European Championship on the 100 & 200m. During the 200m I also broke the the Dutch qualification standard for the Paralympics in Tokyo. In Nottwill there were a number of issues that would immediately win some time. For example, we decided to start without a block. Reason for this was a lack of training with the starting blocks during the winter.
During my last 100m in Nottwill I regained that good feeling I was looking for. As a result, I now also know how to be in the race mentally to improve the next race. Joep helped me with this very well to get me ready for this specific race.
And that is mainly enjoying and believing in my potential.
Enjoy being able to race again after the Games were postponed and despite all Corona measures. I am allowed again and now I feel a lot more relaxed than when I started in Lisse. I had a lot of trouble with my partner and family not being present at my competitions. I just needed a few races to get over that. It feels less fun, competitions without an audience. But on the other hand, I can also be happy that there are races again.
My next competition is May 29 in Nijmegen and after that the European Championship in Poland. Which I’m really looking forward to.
The only thing I keep saying is that I can write a book about it that you as an athlete will have to deal with in times of corona. It hits the sport and the experience around it hard. And I can put on my mask and pretend it doesn’t bother me, but that would be a lie.
Despite all of this, I still stick to my goal, which is to fly for life. Show people that there is hope and perspective that despite the wind isn’t in your favor, you can still do your best to get the best out of yourself.
That’s why I do what I do because I’m curious about the journey, but also about where my ceiling is.
Joep and I have produced a good winter training period, even though the current method was nothing like I’ve been used to these last few years. Because of this change in approach, I did not have a great feeling about my progress so far, until the training-camp in Stellenbosch in South Africa.
Unlike the earlier training periods, we focussed heavily on the basics of running to create a fundament on which to build the next couple of years. So my expectations weren’t that high. I understood the basics, right. Boy was I wrong.
During the sessions in Stellenbosch, it became very clear that working on the basics was the right call. What also became clear was that things are looking a lot better than I thought. Even though the way of working of the last couple of months felt like a step back. In Stellenbosch I saw that working on the fundamentals is bringing significant gains. And looking back, it’s very clear that my grasp on the fundamentals isn’t that good. I’ve only been running for three years.
the days running up to my departure to Stellenbosch we quite stressful. Because of the COVID19 situation in December, the camp nearly got cancelled. Luckily, Keith kept a cool head.
My flight to South Africa was surreal. Normally planes feel very full, but my flight was nearly empty. There were multiple rows between myself and the next person. So I flew in from Amsterdam on a direct flight. Meaning I arrived a day earlier than the Britts. Although the gist of their Corona measures is the same as the Dutch measures, they really end up different. Because of this, I arrived a day ahead of Richard and Keith. Giving me the change to charge my battery and scout my unknown surroundings. Sadly, I couldn’t leave the campus due to restrictions. I needed to stay in my bubble and got my temperature taken every single day. Luckily the view from both the campus and the track was majestic.
The next day I had breakfast with Keith and Richard which was exciting. I never met these men in real life, only through Zoom calls. And of course, I’ve spoken to Keith quit a lot the past 6 months. But it’s not the same.
During the first week, my head was full of thoughts like,
“Is this collaboration going to work?”
Working with Keith really needed to be good for me to keep a positive attitude. I really want to keep working in the current combination of Joep & Keith, at least until the Paralympic Games of Paris in 2024. After all the changes over the past year, I am looking forward to a strong and stable team.
Originally the plan was for Keith and me to meet every month in Vught or the United Kingdom. But due to a certain pandemic, that hadn’t happened yet. Which makes what Keith and Joep are doing even more special. Because keeping me on track is a hell of a job under normal conditions and even harder under these. The importance of communication between these two coaches cannot be understated and they are doing a great job obviously. Keith knew in detail what I was capable of during the training sessions.
Of course I had a good feeling with Keith as a coach, but you never really know until you work with someone face to face and after the first week, I felt calm descend over me.
“This is what I was looking for.”
This is what I was looking for the past year and this is going to work with Joep. Because without either one of them, this is not going to work. Keith by himself wouldn’t work because he would not be able to really train me in the Netherlands. He cannot move to the Netherlands because he has his son over there and he has his own business over there. So now I have two coaches which just works for me.
What I really like as well is that this is a combination of young and old, multiple nationalities and languages working to get the best out of me.
The fact that this works, is amazing!
I feel really enthusiastic about this. And the enthusiasm was confirmed by in Stellenbosch. This team is going to reach the top, we’ve created a situation that works for me, it brings the calm and focus to do that I need to do.
Stellenbosch was mainly a lot of hard work with some fun sprinkled in, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. For most of the sessions, I would run and Keith would be on the bicycle beside me coaching and setting the pace which was very motivating.
Keith is in his late fifties and fit! With his experience, he is able to explain to me what I should feel while sprinting. How do you put a race together? He manages to make it simple without losing the details.
Getting to know Richard Whitehead was fun, that man is crazy. Still I was able to learn a lot from him. He has multiple gold medals and titles to his name and has been a top athlete for over 10 years. Another example for me to learn from.
The fact that Keith & joep hit the nail on the head with my current training program in these first 6 months speaks to their skill. Normally a process like this takes two years. but because of their openness and mutual trust, this is working.
It really just works.
I’m so happy I followed my feelings and stayed critical. Because it enabled me to figure out what I need and create a stable situation for me to excel in the next couple of years.
Today the episode of Flame Bearers in which I tell my story went live and I think it came out very well.