Last Sunday was a very special day for the Rotterdam student rowing association Skadi. On the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal in Houten, the association’s women’s rowing team won the Varsity – the largest student rowing regatta in the Netherlands – for the first time.

The 139th Varsity took place this year. Skadi’s men’s team had already won the award nine times, for the last time in 2015. There has only been a competition for female rowers since 2017. This year, the Utrecht student rowing association Triton carried home the award for the men.

Icing on the cake

“My career was already going very well, but this is the icing on the cake”, says Marieke Keijser, one of the four Skadi rowers and former Olympian. The other winners are Nienke von Hebel, Linn van Aanholt and Lieke van Nieuwenhuizen. The Health Policy & Management student won gold at the European Championships in 2018, silver at the World Rowing Championships in 2019 and bronze at the Olympic Games in 2021. She has been a member of the rowing association for seven years now. “This victory made more of an impression on me than the medals at the Olympics”, she says. “This is really something you do for the club, whereas the Olympics is something you only do for yourself.”

What’s more, she feels like she and her team have written ‘a little piece of history’, she says. According to a tradition of the association, the victory means that the four winners are allowed to wear white jackets. “This tradition has been passed down from generation to generation, but until now, it’s only been men who wore the jackets”, she says. “Now, there are also female role models walking around in the white coats – I think this will inspire other women.”

Big celebrations

Although it quickly became clear during the match that Skadi was going to win, Marieke still found the regatta stressful. “This was my first competition after the Olympics where I experienced real pressure again. I was relieved when it was over.”

The victory was celebrated in style. After a winner’s dinner in Houten, a big reception at Rotterdam Central Station and a ceremony, the day ended with a pub crawl. “I certainly made the most of the celebrations”, says Marieke, laughing. “It wasn’t easy to get out of bed on Monday.”


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