Combining high-level sport with studying: it is not easy. But some Ghent University students do it successfully. This year, no less than 8 students from Ghent University are going to the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Anouk Geurts (bachelor of Psychology, 21 years old) - Sailing (together with Isaura Maenhout)
“It's exciting to be part of the Olympics. Although it may look completely different this year due to all those corona measures. It may be to our advantage if there are fewer distractions than usual. In any case: we are going to give 100% of ourselves anyway. Then we'll see where we end up."
“I study part-time. So far I have managed to combine everything well. I find my studies really interesting, of course that helps. And thanks to my top sports status, I can regularly move my exams. Because I am often abroad for competitions, that is necessary. Because all lessons are online, I can prepare much better for exams.”
Nina Sterckx (bachelor of Physics and Astronomy, 18 years old) - Weightlifting
“"It is my first time at the Olympics, I have no idea what to expect. I am looking forward to the whole experience though: the Olympic village, the people who are there. The fact that I have been selected is quite an achievement for me. That is why I do not really have any particular expectation in mind. Although it will of course be nice if I can improve on my previous performance."
"I am someone who wants to perform as well as possible in all areas. But unfortunately, there are simply not enough hours in the day to play sports and study. That is why I decided to put my studies on hold when the races started up again in April. I was abroad so much then that it would have been impossible to study. After the Games, I will pick them up again. But those are worries for later."
Koen Naert (Master Health Promotion, 31 years old) - Athletics: Marathon
"Everyone dreams of gold, I think. But there is only one who can go home with that medal. I will be especially happy if I have given everything at the moment itself. When I have seized all opportunities. It won't matter what place I finish in.
"Some athletes like to game on the PlayStation console during their free time. I like to learn something interesting. That is why I study. Of course, I have to find a balance between my sport, my studies and my private life: I am married and have two small children. Just before my exams, my beautiful daughter was born. However, the exams themselves fell just right for me: in June I had to put on the brakes because I didn't want to be in top condition too soon. Without exams, it might have been more difficult to hold back. For now, it seems that I have found my balance: my grades are good and I am still married.
Jessie Kaps (Master in Clinical Psychology, 23 years old) - Sport shooting (ten-metre air rifle)
"I am not nervous at all, because my goal was actually to qualify for Paris 2024. I see the competition in Tokyo more as a dress rehearsal. I want to gain experience at big events."
"For now, I can combine my studies well with my sport. The support I get from Ghent University does help me. For example, my exams have been postponed until August. You can't combine studying and training at the same time. Of course, it will be difficult in August as well, because other students will be enjoying their holidays at festivals and the like. But I am willing to do it.
Hanne Maudens (master clinical pedagogy and disability studies, 24 years) - Athletics: 400 metres (reserve
"I chose Ghent University because you have a lot of freedom; you can choose when you go to classes and the professors are very flexible. That way, I can combine it with my training, which takes at least 20 hours a week. As long as I do top-class sport, that is what I want to focus on. I hope to be able to do it until I am 30, but I also like to think about what is possible after that. For example, I really enjoyed my internship last year in special education."
Even more Ghent University participants
These students complete the list: cyclist Tiesj Benoot (manaba Marketing, 27 years old), skateboard star Lore Bruggeman (bachelor Communication Sciences, 19 years old) and sailing star Emma Plasschaert (Industrial Sciences: Engineering, 27 years old).
Besides these Olympic students, a few alumni will also travel to the Olympics in Tokyo. In athletics, Imke Vervaet (Master of Law) competes in the 200m and Mieke Gorissen (Master of Physics) runs the marathon. In rowing, alumnus Tim Brys (master in Commercial Sciences) will compete.
Professors Jan Boone and Jan Bourgois are helping prepare Belgian rowers Tim Brys and Niels Van Zandweghe for the Olympic games in Tokyo. But what exactly are they doing, and what can we learn from research into elite sports? Also: why do the rowers wear Happy Sock-branded socks, and why is one allowed to eat sandwiches while the other isn’t?
(photo Hanne Maudens: Jos Verleysen)