Wow, what an incredible feeling to win a gold medal again! After the bronze in Beijing 2008, the gold in London 2012, and Rio 2016, I managed to successfully defend my title once more in Tokyo. I had to work incredibly hard for it, and I am absolutely thrilled about it!
The gold medal ceremony in Tokyo
This morning at 04:45 Dutch time, I started my final match against the Russian player Viktoriia Safanova. The first game was quite evenly matched, but I ended up winning it 11-8. The next two games were not bad, but the details weren’t quite right, leading to many errors and resulting in losses of 11-3 and 11-4. To outsiders, it may have seemed hopeless, but I didn’t panic, and together with coach Johan, we decided to stick to our existing game plan. The fourth game went smoothly as usual, and I won it 11-5, giving me the confidence I needed. Despite a closely contested fifth game, I managed to close out the match with an 11-8 score.
It was an emotional journey. There was a five-year gap since Rio de Janeiro, a one-year postponement of the Games due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the current restrictions in Japan that prevented my parents and dedicated supporters from being present, a year and a half without international competition, and more. On top of all that, every player and their coach/trainer had analyzed my weaknesses over and over again and adapting their game plans. Among the current top six players in the world, the competition is fierce, and anyone can take the victory against the others. When you add up all of the factors mentioned above, I am genuinely proud of the outcome, and this is truly my most cherished title.
Face Time with my family after the Final
And what do you do after your victory in the main competition hall? You immediately connect with your parents and family via FaceTime! A Paralympic title never comes easy; it requires intense training and hard work. I have the support of the NOC*NSF, the Dutch Table Tennis Association (NTTB), Sportcentrum Papendal, my coaches, and training partners who provide financial, technical, and facility support to help me achieve this. However, my parents, friends, and family have been an enormous source of support, and without their years of encouragement, I would never have been able to maintain this high level for so long!
Although the evaluation with the coaching staff is yet to take place, I’ve already made up my mind. I still have a deep passion for the game, and if my playing level and body allow it, I’m going to add three more years to my career with the goal of participating in Paris 2024. I hope to continue working with my national coach Lumen and my superb coach Johan, who, with his calm demeanor and excellent tactical insight, has guided me to victory with the right guidance all these years!
Johan Lieftink. My coach for many years, my tactical support and good friend
Once again, thank you for all the support from the Netherlands. My phone is nearly exploding with all the positive and heartfelt messages on various social media accounts. I hope you won’t mind that I can’t personally respond to everyone, but I truly appreciate it. Maybe I’ll see some of you in Dongen in about a week. I will now temporarily reduce my training and enjoy this amazing adventure with all the people around me.
You’re going to hear from me again soon.