Like all those other athletes, Meulendijks was disappointed when the Games were postponed. Today the spectacle would begin. She understood it too, of course. So postpone, no adjustment yet. Although that may also come. How Meulendijks handles this uncertainty? “I just want to learn more, get even better. I try to think of it as something positive, but I am disappointed, I had it in my head for a few years.”
“I want to be better than ever”
When we speak to her, Meulendijks has just arrived in Marbella. Anyway, while it is still allowed. She trained a bit this season at the center of Anky van Grunsven, “I really haven’t finished learning there,” she says. “I now see this as a school year, if everything starts to improve again, I want to be better than ever at competitions.”
It should be the first Games of Meulendijks. A man with more experience is fencer Bas Veraaien (36). He does not look far into the future (“Age is just a number”), but qualifying for the Paris Games in 2024 is not self-evident. He was in very good shape for Tokyo.
Passing: recruiter and fencer at the same time
These corona days often pass in Italy. His wife is Italian, they are with family. Unlike other athletes, Vertijden is not a full-time professional. “I am also just working from here. We are also training here.” The profession of Veraalten: recruiter, with the police.
It is the biggest challenge for Vertijden. He had arranged everything for work and for his family (he recently had a second child) so he could hunt for a medal in Tokyo without any worries. “I was able to arrange it all just with parental leave and holidays, you name it all. I now have to see how I will arrange it for next year.”
Train, train, train
Verijdenen is not worried that the Olympic Games will not take place next year. “Even if there is now a second wave, there is still enough time to arrange it. Although it is very annoying to hear that it is now going back to the lesser direction. I just keep training well, we will see. “
“Put a goal in your own hands”
According to sports psychologist Mark Schuls, there are roughly two different types of athletes and how they deal with the current situation. The mainly performance-oriented athletes, and the athletes who mainly focus on progression. “The situation is probably more difficult for the first group. They had completely focused on this event.”
Always keep working with goals, is the advice of the psychologist. “Goals that you have in your hand. Improving on a physical level, on a technical level, putting your own development first. Slowly, later on, competitions will be on the agenda that you can focus on.”
Athletes who go to the Games are not so good for nothing, says Schuls. “And don’t forget that this is even an advantage for some. They can take a year longer.”
But Schuls also sees other challenges for more experienced athletes. “Other plans, such as having a child, must be postponed. Family life will serve the sport for another year. That can be tough. Athletes also become more susceptible to injury as they get older.”
Dorian van Rijsselberghe is someone who knows better than anyone how to become (and remain) the very best in the world. He dominated in several surf classes and won two gold medals, in London (2012) and in Rio de Janeiro (2016). The only one who eventually beat him was the man he trained with for years: Kiran Badloe. Van Rijsselberghe has now stopped, but he would prepare Badloe to be the very best during the Games.
“Achieving the goal at all costs”
Van Rijsselberghe about the current situation: “You have two options. Sit down, or you stay sharp and you keep going. The top athletes I know want to achieve their goal at all costs. That is why they are also top athletes.”
He can’t physically help Badloe to a gold medal now. Van Rijsselberghe stopped surfing, and will not keep his fitness level for a year now. He will look for other ways to help: “I can certainly contribute mentally and in coaching.”
It is a bit of a switch, also because the continuation of the Games in 2021 is not certain. “I hate to say it, but I have my doubts,” he says. Van Rijsselberghe lives in California, where the virus, like many other places in the world, is still very much present. “But I really like it to all athletes, it is a wonderful event.”
One more tip then. And for that statement he stays close to his own sport: “Be flexible with changes, find solutions to problems that exist, and above all: sail with the wind.”