I’ve got a routine that I follow, which helps me focus. One hour before the race, I will start my warm-up. I listen to music – whatever is popular in the charts at the time – while I do some cycling, stretching and sprints. Then I go through the race one last time in my head. Then, I’m ready to go.
In Sochi, I hope to compete in five events – the 1,000m, the 1,500m, the 3,000m, the 5,000m and the team pursuit. I ensure my training covers everything, so I have lots of sprint training but also training for longer distances, especially on the bike – I will sometimes cycle for three or four hours. I train for everything – sprints and longer distances – so I can compete in all those events.
I don’t believe in superstitions or keeping ‘lucky’ items with me. I only focus on the things that I have control of; that helps me a lot.
I’ve skated for a long time now, and I competed in the last two Winter Games, so I know what to expect and I know how to race. Everyone has their own way, but for me I need to find the balance between being really focused and being relaxed. If I’m too nervous, I won’t be able to achieve my goal as it affects my body. I have to be relaxed, but focused; that’s what I prepare for mentally.
For now, I’m focusing on Sochi, but I would also like to compete in PyeongChang in 2018. That’s my goal. I want to compete there and then retire, but you don’t know for sure. Hopefully I can stay healthy and not have any injuries. Then, we’ll see what happens.
I use Twitter and Facebook because I think it’s important to stay in touch with the people who support you. They want to know what you’re doing in your life and how your training is going, so social media gives them a look inside my life as a skater. I think it’s really cool. It’s a good way to keep my fans updated and happy. It’s nice to have people who support you.
It was incredible to win Olympic gold in Turin in 2006. I’d never won anything before and then in my first Olympic race I won the gold. It was indescribable. Even when I see the race back now, I can’t believe I did it. It’s an amazing feeling.
We have two women from the Netherlands [Yvonne van Gennip and Marianne Timmer] who have each won three Olympic gold medals and I have two, so now I want to win at least four; that’s my target. I hope to win the 1,500m, the 3,000m and the team pursuit in Sochi.
At the Single Distance World Championships in Sochi in March, I competed in five events in four days and won medals in all of them. I won three gold and two silver medals. At the Winter Games, I want to do the same events but I have two weeks to do it, so I have time to recover. If I can do it in four days, I definitely believe I can do it in two weeks.
In the Netherlands, we have the 11 Cities Tour [a 200km skating event that takes place on frozen canals, rivers and lakes linking 11 Dutch cities]. The last time it was cold enough was in 1997, when I was 11 years old, and my father joined the race. At the time, I already played hockey and tennis, but I was so excited by the race that I told my parents I wanted to start skating. At first they laughed and asked, ‘Why?’ But I was persistent and finally I got some skates. Without their support, I never would have become an Olympic champion.
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