Immediately after my last post, I started the annual build-up period for the competition season. The WinterTraining. Anyone in Athletics can tell you, you’re going to break down. So do I. But I’m going great except for some minor aches and coughs.
Christmas is now behind us, and during these days, I have enjoyed the time with my family immensely. But, you also think of the people you are having a hard time with or those you have lost.
As I write this, we live in the last hours of 2022, and I look back on a year in which I have done a lot of difficult work. Work that is of enormous importance for my development toward the upcoming World Championship in Paris this summer. It was grueling, but I could tell from everything that it was essential to do.
At the same time, I feel the fatigue of the past 3 months of training. Three months in which I’ve taken giant steps. I feel much more vital than in recent years. Not in the least because of one of the new Para-athletics national coaches I work with. You may already know him, Joep Janssen. Congratulations, Joe! This means I have a team at tournaments because, if I’m honest about the Paralympic Games in Tokyo, I missed that.
This was a challenging year, one without serious tournaments. A year in which the unique competition in Mexico failed due to the failure of American Airlines, Aer Lingus, Swissport, and other aviation-related companies. Yet this year also had its charm.
I decided to volunteer every Saturday for the Prince Hendrik club. The need to mean something to someone else grew. Now I help give training to children with multiple disabilities every Saturday. I’m not Kimberly, the top athlete for a while. That feels good.
The Camino de Portuguese. I walked 125 km in 6 days, a beautiful walk. I often think back to this adventure. The fact that I did this alone is a source of strength. In addition, on the birthday of Hervé and my father, May 3, I was asked to marry in Crete. So, naturally, I said, “YES!”.
On the sporting front, I experienced the best season opener ever on July 1 in Leverkusen on the date of my aunt’s death. I also became Dutch Champion in the 100m.
All this was possible because I work with the best people and materials, such as Gijs van Gent. Gijs deserves a special mention. Because my blade and other prosthetics feel better than ever before. He also came up with the idea of having Xiborg develop a custom blade for me. Then, Ken Endo (CEO of Xiborg) came to the Netherlands from Japan to personally hand over the blade.
What I am also delighted with is the partnership with Adidas. From the spikes and clothing to the collaboration with the people at Adidas, like Bob, it’s top-notch! The same goes for Toine van Tsuru and the support they offer, what they do for the business community, helping people to be more vital, has inspired me so much that I started training as a Vitalologist.
Fonds Gehandicaptensport should also be appointed. They allowed me to help make sports a matter of course for people with disabilities. Not only as a role model but also in the political field. All these excellent possibilities and opportunities would never have been possible without Bart and Sports Stories. He unburdens me where possible and opens doors that seem closed.
Last but not least, Van Dort Letselschade. Raoul and his people have supported me for years, and support strengthens me. Just like it did in the lawsuit years ago. I can’t think of a more reliable partner!
I look back with pride on 2022 and am looking forward to 2023!
To everyone reading this! Best wishes and all the luck and sportsmanship for 2023!
This year I cleaned, tidied, and straightened out what it takes to excel for the next two years. This year was not easy for me; nevertheless, this gap year was an excellent time to investigate and implement the necessary repairs. The start of my season felt good, and I started the season with the level I had in Tokyo. The moment I heard the times, I shed a tear; it was also the date of my aunt’s death.
Unfortunately, my times slowed down a bit after that, whether this was because the hot work wasn’t quite finished or because the pressure was lowering, I can’t tell you. But the endless series of setbacks that the trip to Mexico undoubtedly did not help me. So, if you don’t know what happened, here is a summary.
The plan was to compete in the World Para Athletics Grand Prix in Monterrey, Mexico, and shine in the 100 & 200m on July 21 & 22. Unfortunately, when we arrived in Mexico, it became clear that our luggage, including medical luggage, did not reach us. I brought my blade in my carry-on and some other essentials to reduce the chance of problems. But my racing kit and spikes were in the medical baggage, among other things. After all, the airlines would treat that with extra care. Fortunately, Adidas was thoughtful enough to arrange the necessary from their facility in Mexico. The spikes arrived on the day of the first race. But with all the stress and problems caused by my baggage never reaching Mexico by American Airlines and Aer Lingus, I, unfortunately, became ill and could not participate in the event. My luggage didn’t come home until two months later, in September. This is because most people are good, and people pay attention if team NL is on your suitcase.
Because I’ve been quite ill, it took two weeks after Mexico before I was a bit fit again. From that point on, I could only pick up the more serious training sessions again, and the next challenge arose. This had to be done without my coach because he was on a well-deserved vacation. Because I still had to get back to level, I tested different categories (stiffness) of blades, various lengths, and alignments during the build-up period. Of course, you don’t want to be involved in this in a tournament year. So this had to be done so that it won’t be necessary for the next two busy years. Now that the material is configured and the growth path mapped out, we don’t have to worry about that for the foreseeable future.
When I write this, it feels like nothing went right. Still, I’m very proud of my accomplishments despite setbacks and challenges. My winter was not stable (see blog Camino). My season was broken, and I had a lot to deal with. But my determination has only grown stronger.
I believe in myself and my ambitions.
I have now solved almost everything that needed to be straightforward to go full throttle for the next two years. So now it’s time for three weeks of rest, and on October 3rd, I start my next winter season.
I would like to thank my partners & sponsors for supporting Sports Stories, Adidas, Xiborg, Van Dort Letselschade, Tsuru, Fonds Gehandicaptensport, Hashtagfysio, It Continues, Athletics Union, Vughtse Sportclub Prins Hendrik & Ministry of Health.
Of course my coach Joep Janssen. Most enormous thanks to my fiancé. Without you, my mission is impossible. That is to make your limitation your strength through sport.
What I ask myself is the following: How do you deal with the clutter that builds up over time?
Cleaning it all up is a lot of work, and I’m curious how you do this. You can answer this question in the comments below. I read them all.
After the Camino I slowly started to build up again from three days to six days of training. In May, just before I left for a training camp in Crete, I was back in the full program. For this reason, we have decided to open the racing season later, on July 1. This is also the date of my aunt’s death and has been a difficult day for the past few years. It doesn’t feel that way anymore.
It feels powerful to open on this very day.
Below you can see where I will be running competitions. Always nice when you can come and watch and encourage. I missed that a lot last year.
I had a good training camp on Crete. It got off to a good start because the rubbish bin was already my best friend. This training camp was special for several reasons. I participated for the first time with RTC Brabant Atletiek led by Joep Janssen. RTC Brabant Atletiek consists of a group of young Brabant athletes who have ambitions to become top athletes. Some win medals at the Dutch Championships and others want to go to the European Championship or even the Olympic Games. There is a nice atmosphere in this group and everyone can be themselves and is very driven. I discovered that I need to train in a group to get better.
Last year Keith Antoine from Great Britain was my head coach and Joep worked with him. Some had an opinion as to whether this was wise. Still, it was something I needed at the time and was curious about his approach. My training sessions were mostly only with Joep. And Joep and I found out that we can handle the adventure alone. In addition, I noticed that remote coaching does not work for me. So I wrapped it up nicely with Keith after Tokyo.
Joep is a young talented trainer at Prins Hendrik in Vught and for him I am his first para-athlete whom he can guide higher to the top. Conversely, this is the first training season for me in which I have found peace and a stable relationship of trust with my coach. I was allowed to look into different cuisines and I also needed that to discover what suits me. But working at such a high level, the bond with your coach is essential. That basis must first be good before you start thinking about the next steps. Sometimes I also clash with Joep and then we don’t always agree. But it has to be, that’s part of it.
The bond between coach and athlete is not always easy going.
My partner also came by in Crete for a midweek to take pictures and see how the training sessions are going. It turned out that it was a man with a plan. On his birthday he proposed to me. After 7 years of relationship he knew for sure and so did I. The best part is that he did that the moment I could say I love myself. If you don’t love yourself, you can’t love anyone else.
I flew back to the Netherlands with a ring on my finger. All in all I feel like the happiest woman in the world.
I now feel that I’m in great shape and I’ve never felt so much in the mood for competitions. Except for a few minor aches and pains, I was able to train well and remained intact, partly thanks to Hashtag Physio. There were tough workouts that made me nauseous. Sometimes I still marvel at that. How hard you have to work to get a few tenths off your time. Athletics is arguably one of the toughest sports out there.
I can still remember when I saw the 4x400m team from the Netherlands train in Stellenbosch. It is the combination you must have. The talent but also the will to do the work for it. There just aren’t many of those people. It’s really a tough job. Also keep in mind that some athletes don’t get paid for it and have to work side by side. An amateur football player still has a good salary. More attention should be paid to sports in general in the Netherlands. Media is mainly about football & Formula 1.
While there is so much more inspiration than that.
We would sit in the car listening to the song Sunny Days by Armin van Buuren and I would take your hand. You then squeezed my hand back and smiled at me. You radiated warmth and love. With your eyes, you said, “I’m here for you, girl.” My aunt took her own life on July 1st, 2019.
Some people say, “That was three years ago, wasn’t it?” Processing grief is complex, and there is no right or wrong. Everyone does it in their own way. This year I decided to actively do something with it. Because I was ready. Letting go of someone you couldn’t prepare for is one of the hardest things. Mourning is a sport. Since July 1st, 2019, I have been doing two top sports simultaneously. It consumed me completely; the scales were not in balance.
Why did I walk 125km in 6 days?
There will come a time when you will have to move on without your mother in your life. This moment came when I was 8 and a second time when I was 29. I had such a sweet aunt who was willing to inadvertently take on that role in my development as a mature woman (8th to 29th). Some people go through losing a parent—when it comes naturally—much later in life. There was no one left with a mother role in my life. This painful fact gives me an official sense of maturity and requires me to stand on my own two feet. That realization and the associated process are not simple.
After the Tokyo Olympics games, I thought a lot about why it was bronze. Which route should I take to be even faster in Paris? I would have given it a few years if I wasn’t a top athlete. But I didn’t have this time, so I couldn’t help but look my fear, pain, and sadness straight in the eye. The mirror of my own pain.
My aunt had left me letters, leaving me with all kinds of unprocessed emotions for a long time after her death. November passed, then December. Then January 2022, no difference came. I mostly felt sad. I was shocked, and I no longer recognized myself. After 3 months, I called in the auxiliary troops. The top sport went into the background for three months. I only trained over three days instead of six. Professional sports were no longer the most crucial thing in my life. I needed to put myself and my mental health first because I hated feeling this way. I recognized that I could not get out of the pit alone. After all, you don’t do anything alone.
A pilgrimage to find and lose something
I talked to a mental coach and planned a solo walk. They call it the Camino in Spain, a pilgrimage. So people often think that only believers walk this route. But during the walk, I met enough ‘non-believers.’ People who wanted to enjoy the peace and the beautiful landscape or just wanted to be on the road. Some walked the Camino for a deceased loved one, like me.
I started in Valencia Do Minho in Portugal and ended 6 days later in Santiago de Compostela in Spain. It was 125km. 20 km per day, and the last day was 25 km. I did this alone, an exciting but conscious choice. This was my process. Sometimes you are allowed to step out of your safe harbor to develop yourself.
During the walk, I realized that even if you do something solo, you are rarely really alone. During such a walk, you meet different people, each with its own story.
During the walk, I wrote several letters back to my aunt. Even though I knew she wouldn’t read them, I visualized this. I did this mainly to give space to my own emotions. It felt as if I was walking with a heavy backpack. However, that backpack got lighter with every letter I wrote to her. The burden I felt gradually eased.
What have I started?!
During the hike, I faced physical challenges such as blisters on my stump and strenuous uphill treks. I regularly scratched myself behind the ears and asked, “what the hell am I doing?” I discovered that walking is different from sprinting. Yes, I’m in great shape, but I didn’t do this for a while. Because I’m not trained for this. What this type of walk asks of your body is something completely different. Still, I made it because the top sport has prepared me for the mental challenges that physical problems bring. So I made it, but that took a lot out of me.
On the last day, I saw that church in the distance and couldn’t believe my luck. It was still 5 km! My body was screaming stop this. I discovered that I can stand on my own two feet without my mother and – when the time comes – even without my father. My father has already given me everything I need to know. The loss of my aunt will always remain, and that is allowed. You have loved someone very much for a reason. This love will always remain.
Death is something that comes after life. Sometimes unnatural, sometimes natural. Sometimes you get so caught up in life on things you have no influence on, but that happens anyway. The trick is to let the emotions be there and stay in the moment. Because NOW is all we have.
In my case, I walked it out. Step-by-step. That’s one way too. My advice would be; to find your way.
I am enjoying running fast on the athletics track for the first time in a long time. I owe that to the team of people who are now around me.
Why did I want to do this again?
That unrestricted feeling.
The peace in my body and mind.
That I have nothing to lose.
That it will be okay.
I found that.
Do you have any questions or comments?
Put them in the comments.
There’s more to come before the competition season starts. So keep the blog and my socials.
I’ve already run with it at the ONK Para Athletics, but I was not allowed to make it public at that time. That changes now: “My new blade is a Xiborg V.” And, Xiborg is also a new partner for the Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
Xiborg supplies me with this high-performance blade and supports with the alignment.
I like Xiborg because they make the blades by hand. This blade is not factory work, but high-quality Japanese craftsmanship. This makes it very personal. Ken Endo, the Xiborg V developer, makes the blades as if they were for his children.
Xiborg and Ken go beyond just developing blades for top athletes. In Japan, they provide other amputees the opportunity to use their blade library. This approach allows both children and adults with a prosthesis to exercise again in an accessible manner. It offers several brands of blades from this prosthesis library, such as those of Össur & Ottobock.
This way, everyone with an amputation has the opportunity to exercise again. For example, you can rent and test blades and gain experience with different brands and in various sports.
Xiborg is a young company that is relatively new to the market and based in Tokyo. Xiborg’s blades are still under development, and I will contribute to this. If the global situation allows, Keith and I will go to Tokyo to test and see how we can make the blade even more suitable for me.
In the long run, who knows, a blade to which I have contributed will come onto the market. How cool is that ?!
Since July, I have only been gaining experience with the Xiborg V blade. During the first days of testing, I was still a bit reluctant. It didn’t feel remarkable. In the video, I saw that my contact with the ground for far too long. The difference with the blade – on which I have achieved my successes to date – is enormous. My old blade reacts too fast, and it interrupts my stride.
When we spoke with Ken and shared videos with him, we quickly discovered that the blade needed to be a bit stiffer and that the alignment was far from optimal; the blade leaned back too much. Because of this, I planted every spike in the track and nailed myself to the track.
The first connector which attaches the blade to the socket is quite heavy, and it also colored my experience. However, the connector was necessary to determine and test the length correctly. When the length was correct and the adjustment was better, the blade started to work for me. Xiborg sent a stiffer blade, a lighter adapter, and Hervé put the blade more on its tip. The Xiborg V and I came to life.
By September 10th, I was sure. This is the blade for me. I’m going to fly with this.
All in all, this was quite an exciting period. After my vacation, I quickly came to a decision on the blade. A week and a half later, I stepped into the blocks with a blade that I had barely trained on.
Considering that you usually need about two months to get used to a new leg, and I was going to run at the ONK Para Athletics within a week and a half after making a choice. Also, Keith decided not to train on sprint endurance, but mainly on strength and technical aspects. Before the ONK, I had only run 100 meters on the Xiborg V once.
The period after the ONK, I went into wintertraining. During training, I get a better feeling with the blade and how I need to hit the Xiborg V. This, in combination with a better basic technique, creates more balance between my left and right leg.
Sometimes you have to take a few steps back and then make a jump. I feel like I did with the Xiborg V!