Maaike Head, 33, experienced a stir of nostalgia last Sunday when she presented the medals after the Ladies’ Four race at the Varsity and was reunited with her Skadi teammates. The Olympic champion in the lightweight double sculls event (together with Ilse Paulis) quit elite rowing after the Games to be able to focus completely on her career as a surgeon.

“It was nice to be a part of student life again for just a brief moment. I do miss rowing. I used to derive a lot of satisfaction from being outside in the sunlight and absolutely breaking my body. Now I’m exhausting myself in other ways – less physically, but more psychologically,” says Head, who currently works as a doctor in Amsterdam.


However, the EUR Faculty of Medicine alumna admits there are advantages to her having quit as well. “When I was an athlete, I hardly ever attended social events or went on holiday. Now I’m really busy during the week, but on the weekends I get to meet my friends and enjoy a few glasses of wine. I no longer need to try and lose weight either. In the old days, I always had to watch my weight, and in the three days prior to a race I would often go on a crash diet. I would stop eating fibres and salt for a few days.” (Lightweight double sculls rowers’ weight cannot exceed 59 kg.)

Head now seeks to grab her opportunity in the field of medicine. According to her, due to doctors’ long training periods, opportunities will become less good the longer she waits. In September she will embark on a job application procedure that will hopefully result in her being admitted to Amsterdam’s VU University Medical Centre’s surgeon training programme.

If this plan does not pan out, she is not ruling out a return to rowing. “I can always pick up rowing again, although I’m not sure I’ll return to elite-level rowing. After all, I know from ample experience what it takes to reach that goal.”