Athlete of the Month – January 2019
The 2018 season was a golden one for Corne de Koning. The 29-year-old Dutch rower became a World Champion in two different boat classes – the para PR2 men’s single sculls and the PR2 mixed double sculls. He tells us what it’s like to be on top of the world twice in one year – and then once more in his personal life.
World Rowing: Congratulations on a great 2018. What was it like to get gold twice?
Corné de Koning: Winning gold twice is something amazing. Being a World Champion in rowing is one thing - becoming World Champion in two boat classes feels amazing. It was the result of a good year of hard work. I had a lot of successes in the single and double during the season. Getting the biggest title of the season is the crown of this job.
WR: Which of the two races was your favourite? And why?
CdK: Hard to say - both races had something special. We became back-to-back World Champions in the double which is great. We showed the world we can hold on to what we started the season before. Winning the single was also a special thing. It is a recently added boat class with a lot of good competition. I love racing the single. I like the process of making a double go fast by working together, but in the single you're on your own. You are responsible for what happens during a race. I learned a lot racing the single. It surely made me a better rower.
WR: What have you been doing since?
CdK: After the Worlds I enjoyed a little time off on holiday with my girlfriend and asked her to marry me. She said yes, which made the holiday extra joyfull! After the little break I got back into training. That is what I love doing the most and what makes me happy. All the achievements so far motivate me to keep working hard.
WR: How did you first get into rowing?
CdK: I started rowing in 2012/2013. Before I got into rowing I played wheelchair floorball at international level. As a teambuilding activity we went to a rowing club. The former coach was impressed by my erg results and saw potential. He convinced me to give it a try. I guess the rest is kind of history. Teaming up with my former partner Esther (van der Loos) gave me a quick trip to the top. After she retired I teamed up with Annika (van der Meer) and became top of the world.
WR: How did the other sports you’d done before help your rowing?
CdK: I always liked sports. When I was young I wasn’t always able to exercise. I had a lot of surgery which needed rest and recovery for long periods. In school I always was the one who was picked last in gym class. I found my first real sport in wheelchair floorball, a sport I finally could move without limitations. I started when I was 14. Soon I became dedicated to the sport and I started working out in the gym. It certainly benefited my game, but I also liked to build muscle. Some of my friends were doing fitness, so we motivated each other to work hard. When I got involved with rowing I had a good base of strength. My endurance wasn't as good as it is now, but that followed pretty quick.
WR: Where do you train?
CdK: I live two hours away from the national training centre. During the summer I spend most of my week in Amsterdam around the Bosbaan, our national course. In the winter I train in my hometown. I've got my own single at the local rowing club and all the facilities to do my work. At the Bosbaan the whole Dutch squad trains. Para-rowing is fully integrated in the national programme. We benefit from the same facilities. Everybody is working hard to be the best. A very motivating atmosphere.
WR: what is your role in the double?
CdK: I make a rhythm of long and powerful strokes. Those are the strokes we're known for - being patient in the stroke and getting our maximum reach.
WR: Are there any changes ahead for you in 2019?
CdK: There are no big changes for 2019. This will be a great year. The first moment for crews to qualify for the Paralympic and Olympic Games. Everybody will try their hardest to be the best, so we're trying to find the way to keep ahead of the competition. I put great trust in our coach Jan Klerks. He'll make a good plan and we will execute it!
WR: What is your ultimate goal?
CdK: Winning gold in Tokyo (2020 Paralympic Games).
WR: What do you do when you are not rowing?
CdK: I've got a big passion for cooking. When I've the time, I love to spend some hours in the kitchen to prepare food. Friendship plays a big role in my life, and dinners are one of the best ways to spend time with friends/family. When I’m not training you can find me in the kitchen or near the barbecue preparing some good food.
WR: Which sportsperson do you most admire?
CdK: There is no sportsperson I admire the most. I admire dedication, passion and hard work. Not every person has what it takes but all the successful sportspeople I’ve met had this in common!