Speaking with Sharon van Rouwendaal ahead of Fina 10-kilometre Swimming Marathon World Cup in Abu Dhabi

After fulfilling her childhood dream of winning an Olympic gold medal at the Rio Games in August, the Dutch open-water swimmer has challenged herself to reach new targets.
Gold medallist Netherland’s Sharon van Rouwendaal poses during the podium ceremony of the Women’s 10km marathon swimming as part of the Open Water event in Copacabana on August 15, 2016 during the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Leon Neal / AFP
Gold medallist Netherland’s Sharon van Rouwendaal poses during the podium ceremony of the Women’s 10km marathon swimming as part of the Open Water event in Copacabana on August 15, 2016 during the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Leon Neal / AFP

After fulfilling her childhood dream of winning an Olympic gold medal at the Rio Games in August, the Dutch open-water swimmer has challenged herself to reach new targets.

UAE challenge

The Dutch multiple medal-winner is in Abu Dhabi for the third staging of the Fina 10-kilometre Swimming Marathon World Cup at the Emirates Palace hotel bay at 3pm, today.

High hopes

Among her new objectives is a top-five finish in today’s event followed by a top three in the 17th Fina World Championships at Budapest, Hungary, from July 14 to 30. Her long-term target is to win a second Olympic gold at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Early start

Van Rouwendaal, 23, was five when she accompanied her parents and her two older siblings for swimming lessons in Soest, a town in central Netherlands. She turned professional at age 14 and in 2009 she moved to France with her parents. Since then, she has won several medals at both European and world championships.

Dream achieved

Van Rouwendaal made it to the 2012 London Games but a shoulder injury hindered her hopes in the pool. Roll on four years and Van Rouwendaal fulfilled her childhood dream of winning the women’s 10km open-water swim marathon at the Rio Olympics.

Family bonds

“It was an amazing feeling when I touched the finish plate,” she said. “Actually, I was celebrating even before that. I knew I was heading for the gold as I swam the last 100 metres. The first thing that flashed in my mind were my parents, who have been behind me all the time.”

Rivals in the water

Van Rouwendaal will clash with several swimmers who finished behind her in Rio, and one of them is Rachele Bruni, the Italian silver medallist. Bruni won the 2015 Abu Dhabi event and was fifth last year behind Aurelie Muller of France. Muller is back to defend her title. “A lot have been here before me and they know the environment,” Van Rouwendaal said. “However, I feel good. I swim on my feelings. If I want to go in front I will go in front, and if I want to sprint at the end I will sprint at the end. Never know what I’m going to do.”

Strong field

Today’s race has drawn 54 in the women’s race and 72 in the men’s event led by another Dutch swimmer Ferry Weertman, who won the men’s 10km gold in Rio.

apassela@thenational.ae

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Published: March 10, 2017 04:00 AM

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