Life After Sport

On Tuesday, Prince Willem-Alexander was crowned King of the Netherlands, which also marked the end of the reign Queen Beatrix. After 33 years on the throne, she handed over her responsibilities to a new generation. I have had the good fortune to meet her twice. On both occasions I had won medals at the Olympic Games. I also met – at that time – Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Máxima a few times. They are great sports fans and deserve a top ranking when it comes to cheering on the Dutch squad!

My last race
My career as a professional athlete ended nine months ago. After 10 years of international competitions, I swam my last race on the 4th of August 2012. That was the Olympic final of the 50 meters freestyle in London. Winning a bronze medal, the best performance of my career, in the last race of my life is very special and something I’m very proud of!

Biggest fan club
I had known for three years that the London Olympics were going to be my last competition. I knew I would need a solid plan, a huge amount of training and discipline, as well as support from the very best specialists to achieve my dream of winning an individual gold medal. After the 4th of August 2012, my career was complete and, as we say in the Netherlands, “de cirkel was rond”, which means I had rounded things off as intended. My whole family was there; my daughter Hannah, husband Camiel, my parents, my in-laws, my four sisters and my brother, all with their partners. If there was an Olympic gold medal for biggest fan club, I would have won hands down!

T-shirts for the whole family

I gained 10 kilos
Having completed my swimming career as intended, made it easy to retire. A lot has changed since then. I’ve gained 10 kilos, not because I ate too much, but because I’m expecting my second child this week. As was the case during my first pregnancy, I’m still swimming four times a week. It still feels great and you can’t suddenly stop when you’ve spent 25 hours a week training for the past 10 years. You need to cut back the training intensity slowly, to prevent cardiovascular disease.

Blank page
And so the time has come to work on a new career. It’s great to get the chance to start on something totally new. It feels like I’m starting with a blank page. On the other hand, however, it’s also difficult to find a job that will give me as much pleasure and as many challenges as being a professional athlete. There were lots of questions: What is it I want to do? Should I work for a company, become a consultant, work in sports? What will be my new goals?

Because I hold master’s degrees in both Industrial Engineering & Management and Economics, I’ll be pursuing a career that combines these studies with my experience as a professional swimmer. And because I also enjoy sharing the story of my swimming career with others, I’ll be giving presentations to a variety of companies and audiences. It’s interesting sharing my experiences on goal setting, motivation, top performance and mindset with people who work in a different environment – the business world.

But outside my working life, there will always be one activity that I will keep up: swimming. It still keeps me happy and fit. Even now, with a baby in my belly, I’m still swimming. And I’m sure I’ll continue to do so for the rest of my life!

This was the last blog of swimmer Marleen Veldhuis. KLM thanks her for her interesting and entertaining contributions in the last months. We wish her all the best in her new career and with her family and the little new family member. Thank you Marleen!