Student - 19 december 2013

At the speed of light

tekst:
Roelof Kleis

Star skier Anna Jochemsen, a student of Nutrition and Health, will represent the Netherlands at the forthcoming Paralympics in Sochi. Resource talked to her about her speed.

An official timekeeper in a race at the Super G recorded 92 kilometres an hour. But she goes even faster downhill, when she reaches speeds of more than 100 kilometres an hour on straight stretches. Way beyond the reach of ordinary mortals. And wait for it: Anna Jochemsen does this on one leg. In Sochi this new sportsperson of the year in Ede will be taking part in the standard slalom, the Super G and the Super Combi.

Anna Jochemsen makes no bones about it: she is a daredevil. ‘Certainly compared to the other women skiers. I like going fast. There are moments when I think, ’what on earth are you doing?’ Standing bent double on one leg for one and a half to two minutes. That gets the muscles acidifying like crazy. In the bends pressure builds up that amounts to two or three times your body weight. On the straights you reach speeds of 100 kilometres an hour and then you have to brake hard after the finish.’

She has had some serious crashes after the finish line. But falls are part of her sport, as is risk-taking. ‘Going for speed,’ is what she calls it. Taking a corner as fast as you can. Keeping your balance. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But fear? ‘I have at times had downhill runs when I wondered how it would end. Sometimes you go so fast that your skis begin to flap and you feel your knee wobbling from side to side. That is scary, and you’ve got to regain control.’

Tailgater

She simply loves speed. When she’s out driving too, she likes to step on the gas. She laughs a little awkwardly, openly admitting that she still has a speeding fine to pay. ‘But I’m not a tail-gater or anything like that. I am a sociable driver, but I just like overtaking. And when I can, I drive fast.’ As fast as her Volkswagen Polo permits. Luckily it doesn’t reach meteoric speeds. ‘When I drive to Austria, it won’t go above 160 an hour anyway.’

On the ski slope she needs top quality gear. Skiing is a sport that involves a lot of equipment. You must have the right skis at the right length, with the right surface profile and the optimal angle on the sides so that you can literally cut corners. And the right wax of course. Anything to get the best grip on the snow, Jochemsen explains. The skis are sharpened continuously, because every slope is different and every kind of snow requires a different approach. In order to increase her speed a bit more, Jochemsen is skiing on a longer ski this year. ‘In recent years I was skiing on a 203 centimetre board. This year it’s 211 centimetres. Greater length means a larger surface, less resistance per square metre and therefore greater speed.’

Sochi

The dates of 10, 11 and 14 March are boldly circled in Jochemsen’s agenda: the dates of the Super G, the Super Combi and the slalom on the Paralympics programme. ‘Sochi is the reward. It has always been my goal to get as far as I could in my sport. To keep on improving all the time, to find out what my top level is. The Games are not the only reason I do it. I enjoy every competition. Soon it will be the European Cup again and in January the World Cup. But the Games are the top event. And there is a lot of attention for Paralympic sports now the Games are coming up. The Games are a milestone for me. Getting to take part in them is a big thing. It means you have gone as high as you can. The Games can be a big turning point in your career. And even in your whole life.’

Secretly, of course, Jochemsen dreams of doing more than just participating. She dreams of writing history. But is that possible? ‘I will need to have a very good day and a bit of luck,’ she says, estimating her chances with a dose of realism. ‘My best result this season was coming sixth, in a field of competitors that is what I expect at the Games. I have had a very good summer and my skiing has got more powerful. So I expect to improve on that sixth place. And you never know, that could mean a medal.’