Diane van Es (22), fourth-year Sports Studies student, ran the Olympic limit in the 5,000 metres at the end of May. She ran a time of 15.07.52, well below the limit for Tokyo of 15.10.00. This means that Diane will be able to compete in the Olympic Games this summer. In this article, Diane talks about her success, her upcoming challenges and how she combines being an elite athlete with studying.

Olympic Games

First of all, congratulations on meeting the Olympic limit in the 5,000 metres! Did you expect to run the Olympic limit in the 5,000 metres?

I kind of expected it. My goal for that race was to try and run the Olympic limit. Because it went very well during training, I knew it was possible. But it was a big surprise because during the race I had to slow down a bit, which made for a tough final lap.

Now that you have met the Olympic limit, you get to go to the Olympics in Tokyo, how will you prepare for that?

There are still some other tournaments I will be competing in before then, including the European Team Championships in Romania, the National Championships and the European Under-23 Championships. In terms of further preparation, I want to maintain my fitness level and spend the last few weeks building it up for the Olympics.

Do you find it exciting to participate in the Olympic Games?

The Olympics are very different from any other championship I have participated in, because you want to perform optimally. You want that in every competition, but that is when you really have to prove yourself. That does create a lot of tension.

Combining studying and high-performance sport

In addition to being an elite athlete, you are also studying Sports Studies. How do you combine studying with high-performance sport?

At the beginning of the degree programme, it was quite easy. Lately, it has been a bit more difficult, because I train a few days a week in Arnhem. Therefore, I have to plan carefully when I have time for school. My priority has always been running. The time I have left over from sports, I spend on school. Sometimes it is a challenge, but it has been OK so far. Digital education has been an advantage for me, because it meant I didn’t have to go to school too much.

At the moment, I am working on my graduation research. I am doing research at Rotterdam Topsport on Talent Recognition among gymnasts. I don’t know yet whether I will graduate at the beginning of next year or if I can still make it this year. I think that I will have some delay, also due to the upcoming tournaments.

Do you have any tips for fellow students on how to combine studying with something else, such as high-performance sport?

Combining sports and studying is of course difficult. My tip is to use your travel time for your studies as much as possible. That is what works best for me. In addition, I think it is important not to stress too much about your studies. That, in turn, has an effect on your sporting performance. So it’s better to take a little longer to complete your studies so that you can combine sports and studying well, rather than having to drop your studies altogether or having your sporting performance suffer as a result.