Olympic open water swimming champion van Rouwendaal: (NED): "My first race in Rome. I am here to defend my titles."
If competitiveness has always run through your veins since you were a child and, at 5 years of age, you already wanted to become an athlete and used to race against your 10 year old brother, winning has to be “always special”, as said by Sharon van Rouwendaal, the Dutch Olympic Champion and reigning world and European champion in the women’s 10km open water race. For her, "open water swimming is a bit like cycling: there are so many challenges in a race. You have to know how to manage your energies, not to go too far ahead in the front and then get tired but at the same time you have to be careful if you finish in the middle of the group to follow the streams of those who are in the lead and be in the middle of 'fights.' And I don't like 'fighting'."
What are your goals for this event?
"At the European Championships I have won the 10km three times and took the gold medal in the 5km in the last two editions. I feel in better shape than I was in Budapest [at the 2022 World Championships, where she ended on top of the podium, again, in the 10km]. I'm here to defend my titles."
And after that?
"Then I'll relax for a while and I will focus on the next major events: the World Championships in Fukuoka next year and then, of course, the Paris 2024 Olympics. There are so many good young athletes out there, but I want to be there and compete."
In the meantime, you will be competing here in Rome for the first time.
"Yes, I was not here during the 2009 world championships. I really like Italy. I love Italian food, especially pasta. I eat it for lunch and dinner. My favourite one is carbonara. I love pizza, good coffee and ice cream too. You also have some wonderful beaches where you can go on holiday."
Speaking of beaches, have you been to the Ostia venue yet?
"Yes, we went during these days. It's very nice and professionally organized. It was a bit windy and the sea was quite wavy. But I like it that way. It's proper open water swimming. And after all, if it’s difficult, it’s good for me”.
After the reschedule of races, Van Rouwendaal will begin open water competitions on Friday, August 19 with the 10km.