“Last year, we found out that in our whole life we’ve only spent one full day apart,” says Myke van de Wiel (20), who is one minute older than her sister Anne. “But,” she hastens to say, “we think this is to be expected. We were in the same classes, share the same friends and do sports together.”

And sports in particular have made the ladies even more inseparable these past years. Because the sisters from Breda are seen as two of the top athletes in Dutch women’s heptathlon, during which the contestants participate in seven track and field events within a single competition (further details in the boxout). They train six times a week in activities like the 100-metre hurdles, long jump and shot put. “We were pretty boisterous kids,” explains Anne. “When we were seven, an uncle whose two sons did athletics suggested to our mother that we join an athletics club. We enjoyed it so much that we’re still at it today.”


By their late teens, it had become clear that the two sisters – who practiced at the Sprint club in Breda – had more than their fair share of talent. “We never had trouble keeping up, but around 16 they assigned us to a more serious trainer. We started on a special training programme, after which things started picking up speed. Before that, we mainly trained with friends.”

And last year, everyone could see what kind of progress they’d made during the Dutch championship. Myke was just short of a podium spot, but Anne was able to take home a silver medal. “But it could just as easily have been the other way round,” says Anne. “These past few years, we’ve both performed at more or less the same level. One year, I do slightly better; the other, Myke. She’s a slightly better sprinter, but apart from that there’s not much difference between us.”

Anne van de Wiel

The two acknowledge that there are two sides to being both family and direct competitors. Myke: “It can be really annoying. Because I enjoy it when Anne wins too – and I’ve noticed this slightly affects my drive to come out tops.” Anne agrees: “I’d rather see my sister win than some other competitor. Whether consciously or unconsciously, you always have your sister in the back of your mind. And during trainings, for example, we can help each other stay motivated.”

Last year saw the first time this ‘rivalry’ created some minor tension between the two sisters, Myke admits. “There was only one spot left in the selection for the European Cup [the European championship for female heptathletes, Eds.] The athlete who put in the best performance during the closing competition would be allowed to join the Dutch team. Anne won this event, and I admit I had mixed feelings about this.” Myke turns to her sister: “Of course, I wanted you to make the team rather than someone else, but for the first few days, I remember thinking: I’d prefer neither of us could go. In the end, I went to Spain to cheer her on though – and I was really proud of her.”

Different studies

There’s no way the two heptathletes can avoid each other out on the track and field. So when Myke and Anne had to decide on their studies nearly two years ago, this was an ideal occasion to create a bit more distance between them for the first time ever. “We didn’t want to really push the idea of choosing two different studies, but we did consciously look into different programmes,” says Anne. “I decided on sociology, and Myke went for psychology. We do live together: we enjoy each other’s company and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Although I do like the fact that now, some people know me as Anne on my own, rather than always as part of a pair.”

Despite competing at a high level, the two second-year students are still on schedule in their studies. They plan to round off their bachelor programme next year. Anne: “It’s easier to combine sports with our studies as students than when we were in secondary school. School days were far longer. Overall we have fewer obligations nowadays.” And the fact that EUR has assigned the two athletes ‘topsport’ status is also supposed to help. But the designation proves less useful in practice, notes Anne. “We benefit less from this status than people assume. When we miss 30 minutes of a seminar this is recorded as a missed session – the same as with any other student. It mainly comes in handy when you’re faced with a real dilemma.” Her sister agrees. “I really don’t ask that much. I understand that you can’t miss too many components. But occasionally, it would be nice if they thought along with us a bit more.”

Unable to choose

Myke (l) and Anne van de Wiel Image credit: Geisje van der Linden

For the time being, the heptathletes plan to keep combining sports, studies and student life – if only because they’re unable to choose one pursuit over the other two. According to Myke, the fun and relaxation of the latter are indispensable for weathering the pressure of the other two activities. “Some people may say that as a top-level athlete, you shouldn’t be going out on Saturday – and drinking alcohol besides. While physically that may not be your wisest move, I couldn’t survive without the distraction. You shouldn’t do it before a major competition of course, but if going out is an option: Yeah, great idea!”

However, the biggest challenge coming up for the twins isn’t in the lecture hall or out on the track: this summer will be the first time they’re going on separate holidays. “We’ll be apart for five days – I expect it will feel rather weird,” says Anne. Her sister nods in agreement, but then starts laughing out loud. “Hahaha, that can’t be right – we sound like some old married couple.”

During the women’s heptathlon, the contestants complete seven events: the 100-metre hurdles, shot put, high jump, 200 metres, long jump, javelin throw and 800 metres. The athletes earn points for each event: the competitor with the highest total wins.

Personal records:

  Anne Myke
100-metre hurdles 14.17 14.36
Shot put 10.45m 10.39m
High jump 1.60m 1.56m
200 metres 24.72 24.62
Long jump 5.62m 5.83m
Javelin throw 40.02m 39.42m
800 metres 2.24.25 2.28.50