The past few years have revolved around skiing for Anna Jochemsen. And at the end of February her commitment bore fruit: the 27-year-old student of Nutrition and Health qualified for the Paralympics of 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
Tough it out
Anna has always had to get around on only one leg. When her mother was pregnant she had an accident. As a result Anna's right leg did not grow properly. 'As a child you do realize it is not normal,' says Anna. 'In spite of the pain and the way it sometimes limits you, you can lead a perfectly good life. Maybe it taught me to tough it out more in adversity.'
Because she certainly will have to tough it out when she whizzes down the slopes on her one ski. 'The skis are the same as ordinary ones, only I also use special crutch skis that you can put on the snow to keep your balance. I try to use the crutch skis as little as possible because they slow you down a lot. But then you have the pressure of your entire weight on one leg. It is very heavy, and you are working hard all the time.'
But hard work is exactly what appeals to the Bennekom skier. 'Skiing is a complex sport. It demands a lot of you, technically, physically and mentally. I love the speed in ski racing.' Anna would love to be on the ski slopes all year round. 'In the summer I do nothing but train for strength and fitness: working out, cycling. Not very exciting. But then when I go up in the first lift in the winter, I know why I do it all. I could go on skiing for ever.'
'I learn something new every day'
As a child, Anna learned to ski from her father. She took her game to new heights just seven years ago. 'I had talent but no technique. So I looked for someone who could teach me that. He was a competition skier and he took me with him to a tournament. That set the ball rolling.' For the last four years the student's life has revolved around skiing. 'I learn something new every day.' She spends about 20 weeks a year training abroad. Her days are full, with at least three hours on the ski slopes, followed by working out, cycling, physio, video analysis and waxing the skis. 'You are happy if you get to bed at ten o'clock. In the winter this sport definitely cannot be combined with studying.'
In February Anna started the Master's in Nutrition and Health. She has very little contact with her coursemates. 'I am so out of sync that I keep being in classes with different people. But I don't mind. Luckily the teachers are very flexible. They understand my transferring from one group to another.'
Anna does not mind missing out on a lot of student life. 'In the first three years I studied here I did join in student life. I was in the Navigators and I lived in the town centre in Wageningen in a very friendly student house. I also spent a year on a board and I went to almost all the parties. So I do know what I am missing now. But my priority now is Sochi. I started skiing relatively late so I have not yet reached my peak. The competition is very stiff, but if I keep going like this I could surprise people.'