Lobke Berkhout, the girl whose childhood dreams came true
A double Olympic medallist in the 470 class with two different partners, Dutch yachtswoman Lobke Berkhout tells the story of how her childhood dream came true.
Born in Amsterdam on 11 November 1980, Lobke Berkhout was introduced to sailing by her parents and began dreaming about the Olympics when she was only eight.
“During my whole life the Olympics have been something magical and I always had the idea: ‘Wow, it would be amazing if I could compete there in my sport’,” she explains.
Joining forces with Marcelien de Koning in the 470, Berkhout won a number of international regattas and landed three straight world titles between 2005 and 2007, the first of those successes helping them land the Dutch Sports Team of the Year award.
As far as she was concerned, however, those victories were nothing but markers on the road to Olympic success.
“Sailing is a sport that is based only on the Olympic Games,” says Berkhout. “You do a campaign for four years and the Olympics is the major goal. In between you have the world championships and of course these are also really important, but qualifying for the Games is amazing and competing there is a dream come true.”
With Berkhout the helm and De Koning the crew, the Dutch duo went into the 470 competition at Beijing 2008 among the favourites, a status they justified by winning the first of the ten races on the programme.
A constant presence the top 10 throughout the competition, Berkhout and De Koning finished fifth in the medal race, where points count double, to seal the silver medal behind the Australian pair of Elise Rechichi and Tessa Parkinson.
“When I passed the finish line and we realised that we’d got silver, we only thought of one thing,” recalls Berkhout. “We jumped into the water, the boat capsized and we were dancing on the bottom of our boat because we had been on a pretty strict diet during a long time, and we knew there was one nice hotel with a nice food bar and a chocolate fountain. We were only screaming the name of the hotel at the bottom of our boat. That was the first reaction.”
She adds: “Standing on stage and having the silver medal round our necks, the whole period we experienced together passed by, from 2001 to 2008. We knew this was the max we could get out of it and we were really happy with it. I only knew that I wanted to compete and I wanted go for another gold the next time.”
That silver medal marked the end of the De Koning’s successful association with Berkhout, who then teamed up with Lisa Westerhof. The new duo clicked and together they would go on to win back-to-back world titles in Copenhagen (DEN) in 2009 and on home water in The Hague 2010.
In taking her medal collection at the Worlds to six with a bronze in Barcelona in 2012, Berkhout became the ISAF World Championships’ second most successful 470 sailor of all time.
When London 2012 came around, Berkhout and Westerhof featured prominently in every race and eventually secured a bronze medal behind Great Britain’s Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark and New Zealand’s gold medallists Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie.
Having fulfilled her dream and established herself as Dutch sailing’s greatest Olympian, Berkhout promptly called time on her career, setting sail in search of new adventures and goals.