Interview with record-breaking Dutch para-rowers Corné de Koning and Annika van der Meer on their ambitions and racing in the Netherlands.
While this duo hasn’t raced together on their home soil yet, para-rowers Corné de Koning and Annika van der Meer remain unbeaten since the two were brought together little over one year ago. After defeating the reigning British paralympic champions in the PR2 Mixed Double Sculls category in a world best time, they went on to claim the title at the World Championships of 2017 held in Sarasota in dominating fashion. We asked them about their road to Tokyo 2020, and the prospect of competing on Dutch water at the Aegon Koninklijke – Holland Beker.
For De Koning, who has competed at an international level since 2013, the first years in the paralympic rowing world were tough:”I had to combine a full-time job with training, since I didn’t receive any financial support in my first years. It took a lot of my energy away from training, but it was also a great challenge to combine my two careers and to excel at both”. Asking about the combination of Van der Meer and himself he replies: ”It’s fantastic that we’ve been able to set a new standard. Our goal is to remain undefeated in the coming years and ultimately win a gold medal at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.” Van der Meer, who started rowing after suffering injuries related to skiing and track cycling, also isn’t showing any signs of slowing down, as she explains: ”the hardest part of rowing is getting all the details just right. The improvement of our performance since last year is very noticeable. A new world best time this year at the World Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, is definitely a possibility, and of course Paralympic gold lurks on the horizon as we approach 2020.”
The duo have planned to demonstrate their speed at this year’s Aegon Koninklijke – Holland Beker. Van der Meer: ”But we will only race if there are crews to compete against. Nationally there currently isn’t another PR2 double, and for foreign teams budget is often an issue when attending international races”. De Koning adds: “It would be a good thing if the number of countries that facilitate para-rowing grows. FISA has already implemented measures to achieve this, such as lengthening the racing distance from 1000 to 2000 meters, making it easier to organize para-rowing races on standard rowing courses.” The increased racing distance could also boost the competitiveness of the races themselves, De Koning says: ”In a 2000m race, there is more room to execute a race plan. Tactics now play a much larger role than before. Overall, it would be great to have a bigger, more competitive field, and more races, like the Aegon Koninklijke-Holland Beker.” Van der Meer also wishes that more people would discover para-rowing:”it’s not hard to facilitate para-rowing, every club can do it.”
If De Koning and Van der Meer remain this year’s only entrants, then they will likely make their first appearance on home water at the 2019 Aegon Koninklijke-Holland Beker, which will double as the last World Cup of the international season. The prospect of racing in Rotterdam excites both athletes: ”The opportunity to race in front of all my friends and family is very exciting”, says De Koning. Van der Meer: “Having a big event with so many international competitors being held here will hopefully boost the interest in para-rowing in the Netherlands.”. National interest is certain to get a boost from the great performance of these two rowers, as they strive to continue their unbeaten streak towards the Paralympics in 2020.