Meet the team: The Dutch Olympic squad

4 August 2016
Rio de Janeiro (BRA)
Sjef, Mitch and Rick make up the first Dutch Olympic team since Athens 2004.

Sjef van den Berg, Mitch Dielemans and Rick van der Ben made up the Dutch men’s team for Rio 2016 Olympic Games. It’s the same trio that won a silver medal at the first European Games in Baku in 2015.

The last time the Netherlands had a men’s team competing at the Olympics was in Athens in 2004. It was there that now-head coach Ron van der Hoff made his last appearance as an athlete.

In Rio, his experience is behind the line, helping Sjef, Mitch and Rick forge their own Olympic journeys.

“What I have learnt in my time as a coach is that coping with the stress or the tension of the competition is totally different. You need to manage it differently because as an archer you know where it comes from, but as a coach, you can’t know or feel what the archer is thinking,” said Ron.

Sjef and Mitch make their Olympic debuts in Rio – but Rick has experience from the Games in London in 2012, where he finished fourth.

“Rio is going good. I think we had a good practice at the Europeans Games, which was like here, but this is 10 times bigger,” said Sjef, who took two silvers in Baku.

“I think the atmosphere on the finals field is going to be nice and with a lot of people watching. I hope we can give them a big show.”

Both Sjef and Mitch said they were impressed with the size of the buildings and the Olympic village, but especially, and even Rick, with the massive dining hall.

In the village, Sjef and Rick share a room – but Mitch, who’s been described by his teammates as a “sleepwalker”, has his own room.

Spending their days prior to competition as they normally do in the Netherlands, with some hours of training mixed with exercise, the team has a plan to secure the Olympic gold medal they’ve been dreaming of.

“You need a lot of mental strength,” said Mitch. “All the archers over here are very good shooter, so it’s a mental game and a mental response at the right moment.”

“The more you get into the sport, the higher percentage it gets mental. As you get professional at this Olympic level, the mental games are about 95% – and only the rest is physical,” added Sjef.

That mental strength, they said, the team has been working on and has brought results. If it does one more time in Rio, it would be a dream come true for these three young men and their coaching staff.

“Winning the gold… when you’re a little boy and you start practising archery, you get better and better and from a young age you dream about attending, shooting and performing at the Olympics,” said Mitch.

“This is already a dream come true.”

The archery competition at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games starts on the 5 August in the Sambodromo.

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