Student - May 21, 2015

A medal at the Europeans should be doable

This year Judoka and Food Technology student Evelien Donkers received a scholarship from the Niels Smith Fund. She is placed just outside the top tier of judokas in the Netherlands. The scholarship consists of the sum of 1000 euros and is intended to give elite athletes studying in Wageningen some added support.

That must have been welcome.
You bet. You have to be really very good to be paid any money for practicing Judo – of the calibre of Henk Grol or Edith Bosch. For the rest, you have to pay your own way. I immediately bought new sports shoes and at the end of the year I’ll get some new judo suits. Because I’m taking part in the German league, I regularly travel back and forth to Germany, which is quite an expense. So I could do with the money for that.

How do you combine your top sport with studying?
When I was still studying dietetics at the university of applied sciences in Nijmegen, I was doing judo 30 hours a week. Twice a week I trained with the national team in Nieuwegein, and every round trip was costing me four hours in travelling. I was spending maybe 10 hours a week on my study. I was getting low grades, but it was doable. It’s harder to combine with my Master’s here in Wageningen. So in October I stopped training with the national team. I thought I could make a halfway good job of both things and fail at both, or stop doing one of them. For a couple of weeks I didn’t do any judo, but I picked it up again because I enjoy it too much not to. Now I train between 15 and 20 hours a week. I never miss a lecture, unless I’m abroad. My lecturers and fellow students aren’t really aware of what I do. Because I’m quite muscular they might think, “She probably does some kind of sport.” And I don’t want to be Evelien the judoka, just a student. You don’t need to treat me differently.

How long has judo played an important role in your life?
Actually, I’m a bit of a late bloomer. I started doing judo when I was seven, but I only won my first medal when I was eighteen, at the National Championship. I came third. Soon after that, I started training in Nijmegen, and from then on things got better and better. Before that no one had high expectations of me. I realized that after a training trip to Japan, the cradle of judo. A number of the best Dutch judokas were going. I thought it seemed like a good thing to do, so I called the manager, and was allowed to go. Later I heard that at the time everyone was thinking: “Why is she allowed to go? She isn’t any good.” But only a few months later I won all my big tournaments.

What are your current plans?
This year I want to remain unbeaten in the German league – I’ve managed that so far. Getting a medal at the European Championship should also be doable. My study permitting, I’ll take part in the National Championship, but I’m not going to drop everything else for judo again. It’s odd but my performance has improved with this approach. These days I do sport only when I want to and I no longer go to a training session feeling reluctant. And even though the pressure to perform has disappeared, I still do sport almost every day. Next year I’ll have to find a way to combine my thesis and internship with judo. I don’t yet know how, but I’m sure I’ll find a way

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For the past four seasons Evelien has been unbeaten in the German league. She also has the the
following successes to her name:

  • 2014 1st in Barcelona International Tournament
  • 2013 3rd at European Championship for students in Coimbra, Portugal
  • 2013 3rd in the European Cup in Tampere, Finland
  • 2011 3rd at Nationals in Rotterdam
  • 2010 3rd at junior Nationals in Nijmegen