When Else Praasterink climbs the steep stairs to the 10-meter-high platform, her nerves run down her throat. Once on the tower, she always seeks eye contact with national coach Ramon de Mejer just below the edge of the pool. With a nod of approval, thumbs up, or some other encouraging signal, the coach is trying to give her confidence.
“I really need this connection with Ramon to reassure me,” Brastrink says. “I still wet my pants when I’m up there on the edge of the platform. What drives me to turn this into a 3.5 somersault? Why am I doing this? It’s still exciting after all these years, especially since my jumps are getting harder. But when it’s done right, it’s pretty fat.” Then I had a huge adrenaline rush.
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Twenty-year-old Brastrink may show off her five-flip somersault and spike at the World Cup in Japan on Tuesday. On her World Cup debut last year in Budapest, she surprised with a place in the final (top 12), finishing 11th. At the European Championships in Rome late summer 2022, she finished eighth in the final standings. If Brastrink makes it to the top twelve in the Fukuoka Prefectural pool, she’ll be guaranteed a starting ticket to the Olympic Games in Paris. According to national coach de Meijer, this task is “definitely realistic”.
Brastrink is Celine van Duygen’s successor in the Dutch national team. The 2018 European champion has to shrug off the 10-meter tower due to osteochondrosis on her shoulder caused by strikes on the water. Van Duijn only focuses on the 3-meter plank; Individually and as a synchronized pair with Inge Jansen, with whom she finished 10th in the World Cup Final on Monday.
In her eight years as a tower jumper, Praasterink has never experienced a truly unfortunate descent. She also escaped serious injuries. “I know my coach wouldn’t send me if he thought I couldn’t handle it. I totally trust that,” says the diver, who has been practicing and has taught in Kentucky for three years. In the summer months she trains in Eindhoven.
Native to southern Holland, it reaches speeds of around 55 kilometers per hour with leaps of up to ten metres. Unlike the high-dive system, where men jump from 27 meters and women from 20 meters, tower jumpers dive with their heads down. Senior divers, also active in World Cups, land with their feet in the water for safety reasons.
Brastrink is careful about her body and therefore only trains a few days a week from a 10-meter platform. The effect of this altitude on your body is simply huge. That’s why I mainly train jumps and landings from the 5- and 3-meter board. Sometimes I find it annoying that I can’t practice my major every day.
National Team Coach De Maire: This is irresponsible. Then I can wipe it off after a week, so to speak, and it should be fine for about three weeks. So Praasterink usually jumps off the tower 25 to 30 times a week, usually spread out over a couple of days.
Short in length
In her younger years, Brastrink did not consider life as a diver. She participated in competitive swimming, but due to her short height, she had no future as a top swimmer. And so the swimming fanatic, who grew up in Birkel in Rodenrijs, turned to diving from the 1 and 3 meter board.
Current national coach De Meijer (himself a former jumper) still remembers Praasterink as a little girl on the springboard. “It was really lightweight, the plank didn’t even move when I pushed it in,” the 36-year-old trainer says with a laugh. Certainly in recent years, plank jumpers have been more physical. With their muscular strength, they can push the plank hard to get as high as possible.
The 10-meter-tall tower proved to be a godsend for the 1.60-meter-tall Brastrink. Here the athletes do not jump from a plank but from a concrete platform and the Dutch have the advantage of stature. It is small and light in weight which allows it to spin very quickly. And when it lands, it makes little “spray”. De Meijer greatly respected his student’s bravery. “She’s crazy enough to get up there and throw herself into it. It’s not for everyone.”
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