- Who: Dieuwertje den Besten, 21 May 1997 (23 years old)
- Study: industrial design, bachelor’s completed
- Sport: Rowing
- Club: D.S.R.V. Laga
- Team: ANRT (Aegon Nationaal RoeiTeam), eight
- Status: not yet qualified for Tokyo
What is life like for a studying top athlete in these corona times?
“I finished my bachelor’s and will start my master’s in September. Right now I’m putting all my time and effort into rowing. We are lucky, we can do quite a lot. We may row with eight people and do training camps abroad. Of course we have to follow strict protocols and have lots of tests.”
Was it hard to keep up your motivation when you were not allowed to row and it was unclear if the Games would go ahead?
“I was admitted to the national rowing team last year in January. There were lots of plans, but everything was cancelled really quickly. It was hard to train by myself. This year we can do a lot more again and everything feels like a treat. Every challenge is a new high to train towards. I first fought to be included in the team selection, and then for a place in the eight. Then for the European Championships. I always concentrate on one goal at a time. That’s my motivation.”
Was the postponement of the Games advantageous for you and the team?
“We had just come together for the OKT (Olympic qualification tournament, Eds.) last year. The postponement gave us an extra year and we have become even better in that time. For a young team like ours, it was very advantageous.”
‘We will have to work hard – it’s not in the pocket yet’
What are your chances at the qualifications tournament in mid-May?
“It will be very exciting. We have to come either first or second. We will be competing against the same teams as in the recent European Championships, where we came second. There may be other contenders like China and perhaps a few others. We will have to work hard – it’s not in the pocket yet.”
If you do not qualify, will you see it as a failed mission?
“Oh no. This team was put together with Paris 2024 in mind. I have only rowed for four-and-a-half years so everything to me is new and exciting and I keep the goals manageable. The Paris Games are my main goal.”
What do you expect from the Tokyo Games if you get there?
“Until we qualify, I don’t dare even think about it. I am curious though. There will be no public, but millions of people will watch it on television. The European Championships were broadcast live on TV. Given the number of responses, it really helped put rowing on the map. I’m happy about that.”
Do you miss the student life?
“Of course, but at the moment there isn’t much of a student life. You can’t go to the club building, for example. I hope things will open up again when I start my master’s. I live in Amsterdam and I miss my friends in Delft, though I do have contact with them. I am looking forward to September.”
[Update 17 May 2021]
On the Rotsee in Lucerne, the Dutch women‘s eight failed to qualify for the Olympics. In the final race of the Olympic qualification tournament, Sunday 16 May, the team finished fourth behind China, Romania and Germany. Only the two fastest boats qualified for 'Tokyo’. This means that apart from Dieuwertje den Besten, Laga-clubmate and fellow TU student Tessa Dullemans, reserve of the eight, will not be going to Japan.