Malou Pheninckx – Field hockey

Malou Pheninckx with Zhang Xiaoxue (China) during a Pro League hockey match against China. Image credit: Koen Suyk

“It threw me off a bit when I heard the Olympics would definitely be postponed another year. Of course you could see it coming, but I couldn’t simply flip a switch when the news came in. It wasn’t like: ‘Well, let’s do it next year then.’ It took me a while to get used to the idea. I felt fit, everything was going well and I was really ready for it. And then suddenly everything you’ve been working for all those years goes up in smoke.

“This is a very weird period. You don’t have any trainings or matches to go to, and the only contact you have with your teammates is via WhatsApp. From everything to nothing at once. From six months filled with matches with your club, matches with the Dutch team and the run-up to the Olympics to a completely empty calendar. And you have no idea what will be happening next – that makes it very difficult too.

“Of course they made the right decision, and there are far more important things in life right now. And it wouldn’t have felt right if we had gone despite everything that has happened. Among other things because you don’t want a watered-down experience. I’ve been looking forward to this for so long; you don’t want to be playing your matches without spectators. And no one can prepare well if they have to stay quarantined for a few months. Apart from pushing a ball around in my living room, it’s been a month since I last touched a hockey stick.

“Up till now, it has been boring more than anything. My entire year was centred on Tokyo, including my decision to postpone my medical degree programme. I now have to make new arrangements. I’ve been doing some research again and I’m also following an online course, but I can’t just go back into rotation all of a sudden. They don’t have a spot for me. But things will probably turn out OK. It’s a drag, but ultimately, all it is for me is a year’s delay. Other people are seeing their business go down or have lost a loved one.”


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Amber Meulenbeld – Paralympic rowing

Image credit: Ronald van den Heerik

“A very logical decision, and to be expected. It must be particularly upsetting for people who had already qualified. Personally, I felt a lot more disappointed when our Olympic Qualifier (OQ) was definitely cancelled. At that point, there was a big likelihood that teams would be selected based on their previous times. We wouldn’t have stood a chance, because we only recently got together as a team.

“It may sound strange, but the Olympics being postponed for a year actually worked out for me. I’d rather have a fair chance of earning a ticket than not being placed due to some boardroom decision. But I remember feeling very disappointed when I heard the OQ had been cancelled. Because things were really going well the past few months.

“I was tested as a Paralympic candidate as recently as last year. It turned out I’m blind enough, haha. That was a huge relief. After that, everything went really quickly. I was allowed to compete in the indoor world championships and placed third. And our times were also improving as a team. I think we really stood a chance this summer.

“I’m doing OK right now, but I am bored. We’ve been given rowing machines by the federation so we can train indoors. That’s nice. But they’ve set it up in the middle of the living room – so things are a bit cramped. Apart from that we’re mainly training indoors. Other rowers do a lot of cycling and running, but that wouldn’t go too well in my case. Being able to row every day is fun, but you can’t compare it to being out on the water. And yes: I do have more time to focus on my studies. But I had just put my second master programme on hold at the start of the year, with things being so busy in the run-up to the Olympics. So that’s a bummer.”


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Marloes Keetels – Field hockey

marloes keetels hockey nederlands team foto koen suyk
Marloes Keetels during the finale between the Nederlands and Great Britain at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Image credit: Koen Suyk

“I’d been expecting it for some time now. But when they made the announcement, it still felt surreal. You’ve been thinking about Tokyo 2020 for so long. Basically ever since losing the finals during the last Olympics in Rio. That’s when you flip a switch in your head. It’s not as if you’re thinking about Tokyo every minute of the day, but unconsciously, the Olympics inform every step you take over the next four years. And then it feels really strange to suddenly have an empty summer ahead of you.

“For me personally, this has been a strange run-up period as it is. The first three months of the year, I was unable to play because I had injured my heel cord. In January and February, the national team was flying to destinations all over the world for the Pro League, but most of the time I was at home rehabilitating. The Tuesday before they announced that all the matches in the Dutch league would be postponed was actually the first time I was able to do a full training with the rest of the group. So for me, the timing couldn’t be worse, actually.

“But that’s the athlete in me talking. These are strange days for the rest of society too, of course, but it’s good and completely justified that we see public health as our number one priority. Everyone’s life has been up-ended, their work situations are completely different and people are facing an uncertain future. I have no idea if and when the league will be starting up again. In the meantime, they’ve given me a running programme that I can work on. But you often run in a park, so I get up really early to make sure there aren’t that many other people. And for the rest, it’s mainly waiting. And back to my studies after all. They just told me I’m allowed to register as of 1 May, because I had suspended my programme for this year. It’s great that the university is offering this option!”

marloes keetels hockey nederlands team foto koen suyk

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