The past few months were very uncertain for the top athletes and students. “I just didn’t believe it when I heard that the Olympics were going ahead,” says master student in Business Administration Marloes Keetels, with the Dutch hockey team a favourite for Olympic gold. “The Olympics mean a lot to me. Last time, in Rio, we got silver. In recent years I’ve only thought about winning gold. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Iris Wolves is going to the Olympics for the first time with the water polo team. The master student in Health Law is also relieved the Olympics aren’t cancelled. “I’m so happy it’s going ahead. I hope the event will be organised safely. I also think it’s a good decision not to allow an audience.”

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Closed bubble

The Olympic students will have to deal with a large number of precautions during the Games, due to the state of emergency in Tokyo. For instance, all participants have to be tested daily and are not allowed to leave the Olympic village just like that. “We are in a kind of closed bubble. Before we go to the village we will be tested five times. We’ll also be tested every time before we come together in the dining room”, says Keetels. “That’s going to take some getting used to.”

Wolves would have liked to see more of Japan. “It would have been nice to go on a trip after the Olympics, but unfortunately that’s not possible. And that’s understandable too, given the situation.”

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Three gym sessions per day

Preparations and training sessions will continue as planned despite the measures. “The atmosphere now reminds me a bit of the past”, says Keetels. “After training, you put on your tracksuit and drive straight home. After all, we’re not allowed to shower anymore.” As long as the measures do not affect the field, it is all doable for her. “We play the same way as always and the atmosphere on the pitch is good. We still have a team feeling, that’s the most important thing for me.”

Next week, Wolves will meet with her national water polo team to start training full time. Three gym sessions and two swimming pool sessions are scheduled per day. “We focus on getting fit and examining our opponents. You have to know a bit about who you are playing against.” Keetels also has a busy training schedule before she leaves for Tokyo. “In a few weeks, the European Championship is coming up and we have to train hard for that first. So I have absolutely no time to rest before I leave for Japan.”

After the Games

Tokyo is a highlight, but certainly not the end station for top athletes. “In any case, I will continue to play hockey for another year,” says Keetels. Yet she also has other ambitions to pursue. “For example, I also want to gain work experience and try to get a part-time job.”

Wolves moved to Barcelona last year for her sport and that gave her an appetite for more. After the summer she will continue playing for CE Mediterrani, the eleven times champion of Spain. “I will continue to play in Barcelona for a while. There is still plenty to do: in September I will also play at the European Championships.”

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