We caught up with our Dutch Ambassador Femke Heemskerk, all the way from California. While soaking up the Californian sun, sitting by the pool (no surprise there) she answered our questions. We asked her about the married life, the postponement of the Olympics and how she will implement technology in her workouts up to Tokyo 202One.
Femke is one of the best Dutch swimmers of her generation and has quite the list of achievements to back it up. She started her international career in Montreal in 2005. Her first successes came by swimming for the Dutch relay team. Silver and gold in the European championships in 2006 and 2007 and a bronze medal in the World championships in 2007 were the first medals she added to her resume. She went on to win 9 European championship titles and 9 world championship titles, short and long course combined. Her biggest success is the gold medal she won with the 4x100m relay team during the Olympics in Beijing. To top it all off she is the current national record holder in the Netherlands for 5 disciplines.
First of all, how are you Femke?
Given the circumstances I'm doing very well thank you. I’m home with my husband in California. We have more space here; the sun is treating us well and I am able to do all my alternative workouts!
As a newlywed, congratulations by the way, how have your first weeks of marriage been?
Well we got married 6 months earlier than planned so I could cross the USA border and be here with Guido. So, the “marriage” was very rushed and nothing more than a signature... We still want to celebrate in September! The first weeks were all about adjusting to the new situation. I had a lot of stress from the travel and the news about the virus itself. But I wouldn’t want to spend this quarantine with someone else, so we’re good!
Must have been a crazy couple of weeks! Given the weird times we are living in right now, how are you filling your days at home?
For the first time in my life I became a “snoozer”! Normally when the alarm goes off, I'm out! Now I can wake up at 7 and still be in the bed till 9!! Kind of loving these slow mornings. I’ll start my workouts with drylands and shoulder exercises following strength session. In the afternoon I'll swim a little bit with Elastic followed by a hike or cycle session. I’m cooking a lot more recipes that I've never done and I'm reading a lot! After dinner we watch a Netflix episode.
Even with the slow morning that looks like an active day! But now that swimming is on hold for a while, which other sports are you enjoying right now?
Here in California we can do beautiful hikes so I'm enjoying those the most! Guido and I made a “home-gym” and I enjoy working out there as well.
We can imagine hiking and cycling being a welcome change, but of course you live and breathe swimming. When and where did it all start?
I guess I’ve always loved the water. I learned to swim at a very small club in my hometown, I got scouted when I was 12 and from there it all changed! When I was 11 and I saw Pieter Van Den Hoogenband and especially Inge De Bruijn winning all those gold medals in Sydney, I said to my mum “I want to go to the Olympics!”.
Well you have come a long way since then. What would you say is your career highlight so far?
Oof that’s a hard one! It would be easy to pick the Olympic Gold medal from Beijing. I think my career highlight would be that I'm still improving myself and still enjoying myself in this sport. And of course, my world title in the 100 free in 2014 is definitely one of my highlights!
While we are on the topic of the Olympics, a very hot topic for the past few weeks, the games in Tokyo will be your fourth Olympics. Are you still excited? Or does it feel more like “part of the job?”
Oh no! Definitely not “part of the job”! I’m still very excited! Every edition of the Games is different and each one has their charms. I’m very much looking forward to this one, because the Japanese are so good at organizing events!
It’s good to still see the excitement you have for the Olympics. It must have been strange to see them being postponed. What is your take on the fact that the Olympics have been postponed?
I felt very relieved, because now we can keep on breathing and have time to re-prepare. There was no better option, and totally out of my hands so I just have to go with it. I realize I will have some hard moments to come, but I'm willing and eager to give my best in Tokyo!
Have you already drafted a plan for the coming year to be fully prepared for the Olympics 2020ne?
Not yet, we have no information yet about qualifications etc. My plan is to stay fit mentally and physically as best as I can.
Staying fit of course means training, which type of training do you like the most?
Swimming of course, but I do like road-biking and hiking too!
How important do you think new technology will be in your training schedule leading up to the Olympics?
Technology allows you to measure what you feel in the pool. Yes, read that again! In swimming it’s all about water feeling, a little change in a hand movement can change a lot. So, if we use Swimtraxx technology to give me more info on what I'm actually doing, I'm sure I can improve my stroke!
“Swimtraxx technology allows you to measure what you feel in the pool.”
On the topic of new technology, which influence do you think Swimtraxx One will have on your trainings and results? And on the swimming world in general?
Like I said before, I believe I will get so much more information about what I'm actually doing and combining that with my own feeling will be an amazing tool for me to work with!
Why did you decide to become an ambassador for Swimtraxx?
First of all, I believe in the product. I have been swimming for so many years already that I need to search for little details to improve, I believe Swimtraxx One can help me with that. Also, I felt a connection with the developers of the product, which always makes it more fun to collaborate!
You said you felt a connection with the developers. Swimtraxx is a start-up from and for swimmers. Did that play a part in your decision?
Of course! I think this is a great advantage. I think the background in swimming also means that they know what a good size for the device for example could be, so it won’t irritate the swimmer. This is just a small example, but there are many more when you know the ins and outs of swimming.
As innovators we also keep an eye on the development of the sports in general. Last year there was the very first ever ISL where you competed in, how do you look back on the previous one?
I loved it!! So much energy! For me as a swimmer it was amazing to participate, but I also had so many people telling me they saw it live on Eurosport and loved to watch it! That’s great news, because we aren’t that visible. And to win the first ever ISL felt sooo good!
What are your expectations for the new season? We assume you’ll be competing again, given you’re the defending champion with Energy Standard?
Due to the coronavirus they have changed their schedule already, I think we have to be patient to see how the virus reacts on quarantine and how society will open up again. It’s hard to tell. Patience is what we all need. But I teamed up with Energy Standard again!
With new competitions like ISL, do you enjoy swimming more than you did a few years ago?
It’s not that I’m enjoying it more, but these competitions are definitely a positive change to the swimming world! They were so exciting. So much adrenaline. The Skins in the end made sure there isn’t a winner already after day 1 of racing because they involve so many points. The fact times aren’t that important and the main goal is to score points is definitely something new and refreshing. I also love the international spirit in all the teams, I get to meet so many new swimmers and to me that’s very inspiring.
Sounds to us that you enjoyed yourself and we hope to see you back in the pool again soon! Thank you for your time Femke.