“Except for my performance, I loved it.”

“Except for my performance, I loved it.”

Fimke Rosbergen (men) in the women’s 5000m.Photo by ANP/Sports Photography Soenar Chamid

It wasn’t the reigning Olympic champion Sivan Hasan who ran the 5000m at the European National Team Championships, but Vemke Rosbergen. The last time was in the 5000 metres, thus taking one point for the Dutch team. However, she did enjoy her first cap in the orange kit. “Except for my performance, I loved it.”

At last weekend’s European Championship for the national teams in Poland, top athletes such as Fimk Poll and Leki Klaver scored the most points for the Netherlands and pushed the team to sixth place. But among the 43 Dutch athletes, there were also little-known young athletes who made a more modest contribution, such as Rosbergen. “It was a little surreal. I was eating breakfast now with the toppers I usually see on TV,” she said after returning to the Netherlands.

About the author

Eric van Likerveld has been writing about Olympic sports such as speed skating, athletics and rowing since 2016.

Theoretically, the Netherlands could have scored the full points shot in the 5000m if Hassan had participated. Rosbergen knows that, too. “If Sivan had run, we would have had 16 points.” But the reigning Olympic 5,000m champion’s training program left no room for a trip from Utah to Chorzo. And so the IAAF had to choose someone else for the job.

The last option

Rosbergen finished fourth overall for the Dutch season with a time of 15.57.88 in France earlier this month. She suspects that the three women standing above her were approached first. But Ferrel Packer chose to chase the steeple-chase Amina Maatouk to 800 metres. “I think I was the last option,” Rosbergen says modestly.

When she was 5 years old, she often went to the track with her older brother. It was in Norwich, England, where I was born and raised. Two years ago she moved to the Netherlands and continued to build her future as an athlete. She has always seen herself as a 1,500m runner, but noticed last winter when she was running cross country that she could also handle longer distances.

It was her dream to play for the Netherlands in a major tournament. Who wouldn’t want that as a young athlete? The dream came true faster than expected, although only a week and a half ago she heard that she had been selected for the European Championship for the national teams, which is part of the European Games this year. She had no doubts that she wanted it. Participating in the senior tournament was a great honor and opportunity.

Racing on TV

I’m so moved by everything you’re involved in in such a European tournament. She was introduced to the athletes who competed in the Olympics, saw sprinters on the 5,000-meter start list, and knew her race would be televised. They risked taking me. I wanted to show that it was the right decision.

Maybe it was all too much. This was not expected of her from the Dutch Athletics Association. Head coach Vincent Kortebek also sees the European Championships for National Teams as a tournament where young athletes can gain experience. Above all else, the adage about her and other young talents was: do your best. “Everyone was so nice.”

However, she felt the pressure and that had an effect on her game. She hasn’t come close to the times she ran earlier this year, running 17.12.67, which is a good minute slower than she can actually do. “I was so disappointed about it,” she says. “You think in advance that the tournament will go a certain way, but it doesn’t. It was everything overwhelming“.

Get used to stress

She was comforted by other people’s stories. More athletes need to get used to the stress of an important tournament. Even top players sometimes make a mistake early in their career. Until this weekend, NK was Rosbergen’s biggest stage where she was performing. No wonder she was nervous. “What could I have done about it?”

Being able to brainstorm with older and more experienced athletes was one of Rosbergen’s highlights. She can watch from ringside how the champs do it. And I spoke with European high jump champion Doi Amels, with 400-meter specialist Limarvin Bonifacchia, who has the silver medal in the Olympic relay in her pocket. “They said I shouldn’t worry so much about limitations at this age. I should just let it happen, especially if the body isn’t cooperating sometimes.

She must give herself time to grow. To where? She knows that. “I want what most athletes want: to get the best out of myself. I would like to take part in the Olympic Games and do well there. This is the next dream come true for Rosbergen.

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