Fastest woman on a blade, co-founder of the first paralympic commercial team in the world, and student movement technology. These are just a few ways of many to describe world-class Dutch athlete Marlène van Gansewinkel, the newest member of our Strong Family. Only six years after discovering athletics, she claims two world records. Standing on top of the world, life seemed as good as it gets. But the higher you go, the harder and longer the way down. A global pandemic and an injury knocked Marlène down. But she is determined to become better than ever. The only way is up.
Who is Marlène van Gansewinkel?
Marlène is 25 years young, lives in Amsterdam, and carries the title: "fastest woman on a blade". She's performing in the long jump, the 100m and 200m. In the last two disciplines, she holds the world record. If given a plane ticket to anywhere, she'd pick New Zealand to explore nature and go surfing with her boyfriend.
For Marlène, there's more than her personal career. In 2018, she co-founded the world's first paralympic commercial team in the world. It's a mixed team of para-athletes and non-para-athletes. "We believe that non-para- and para-athletes are able to train alongside each other. We try to raise each other's level".
How it all started
In 2012, at 17, Marlène joined a talent day organised to scout potential paralympic athletes. Little did she know, she'd be competing in her first world championships a year after. "After I got qualified, I started training fulltime in a top sports program".
You can find Marlène on the track from Monday to Saturday. In the winter, she ticks off about 9/10 training sessions a week. That includes 2 sprint workouts, 2 tempo workouts, 2 strength workouts and 1 or 2 general fitness workouts.
The year of world records
2018 was a year to remember for Marlène. She didn't crush one, but two world records in Berlin, racing the 100m and 200m. In the latter, she knocked no less than 0,6 second of the WR at the moment.
“I felt on top of the world, like I could do anything”
The low after the high
After a phenomenal 2018, things got rough. A glorious WC was followed by a burn-out, the downside of major success. At the end of 2019, when Marlène seemed to get back to normal training, a global pandemic ruled out numerous training sessions and eventually the Olympics. Another difficult pill to swallow.
To make matters worse, she obtained a meniscus injury after the lockdown. It took three months before she could compete again, but even that race wasn't finished without pain. Reality hit hard, and Marlène will need to be patient to get fully recovered from her injury. Nevertheless, she stays positive and motivated:
"It hasn't been 'my year'. Nevertheless, my basic condition is very good, so I'm looking forward to the Olympics to be better, stronger and faster than ever before"
A future with many dreams
Olympic champion. It's one of the many goals Marlène has for herself. Beating her own records is another one. "I want to go under 12,5 seconds on the 100m, and under 26 seconds on the 200m". Ambitious goals, but she isn't afraid to dream on: "when I achieve these goals, I will set new ones".
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