The Fastest woman
on one blade

Interview with PUMA Athlete Marlene van Gansewinkel

April 4, 2023

Interview with PUMA Athlete Marlene van Gansewinkel

April 4, 2023

Get to know Marlene van Gansewinkel, the fastest woman on one blade! Born without a lower left leg or lower left arm, Marlene has an impressive set of medals as a Paralympic athlete. Marlene claimed two gold medals in the women’s 100m T64 and 200m T64 events at the 2021 Summer Paralympics in Tokyo, Japan. Now she has her eyes set on this year’s World Championships in Paris.

CATch Up had the opportunity to chat with Marlene on her training habits, goals and advice for other aspiring para-athletes. Check out the inspiring interview below!

What are your goals for this year?

Marlene: The one thing I am still missing from my medal collection is a gold one from the World Championships, so I really hope I can get one this year and I think we have a good chance. I think that is the main goal. I would also want to better my times on 100m and 200m and of course my distance in the long term. I mostly just want to be a little bit better than I ever was.

How are you preparing for the World Championships in Paris this year?

Marlene: Well, it’s quite a short season because the World Championships are in July, so we have a short time to prepare. Now, I’m in my winter training, so I’m doing all the hard training now. Then I will go to Crete for a training camp for two weeks and after that we have four weeks of races, like a lot of races, and then, if it goes well, I will and then it’s three weeks of very hard training. And then it’s the championships already! So, it’s really short but very intense. And of course, just making sure I don’t get injured and it will be good.

In summer 2021 in Tokyo, you won the gold medal in both the women’s 100 metres T64 and 200 metres T64 events. How do you assess your chances at the World Championships in Paris?

Marlene: I think my chances are quite fair. I think my biggest chances are in the 200m. But I also have good chances on the 100 depending on how my season will go because one of my teammates is the fastest right now. But I’m not planning to keep it that way! So we’ll see how close I can get to her and then we’ll find out. But my biggest chances are on the 200m.

How does a typical day look like for you?

Marlene: Well, most days I’m training. Luckily, we only have training at ten, so I get up around eight. I first make myself breakfast and chill, then I get myself ready and then slowly bike to my training. I train for two and a half, three hours. Then we often have lunch and depending on the afternoon, sometimes I go study and sometimes I do a second training. It really depends. And after that I just go home, shower and relax and do some work, answering emails or studying. But that’s about it, my days are very basic.


What are you studying?

Marlene: Human movement sciences.

You talked about your metal collection from the Paralympics. Where do you store them?

Marlene: I have a cabinet in my living room, an open cabinet, which normally you put books in, but instead I put my medals in there. My Paralympic medals get their own box. So my gold medals are on top, and underneath that are my two bronze medals. And then underneath that you have my world medals and those are in pairs. And then my European medals are in like triples. So, I can see them everyday. That’s my motivation.

It’s a motivation to keep doing what I love. But it’s also a motivation about what I have already achieved. It’s confirms that I’m doing the right thing and that I’m actually a good athlete. It’s nice to see what I have accomplished.

Do you have a role model?

Marlene: Not really one person. My motto is that everyone is a role model in their own way. So I don’t have one particular person, but I believe I can learn and get inspired by everyone. I don’t have a role model, because everyone is my role model.

How do you cope with bad days?

Marlene: You have good days and you have bad days and that’s just life. And you will get through the bad days. With the bad days, you must remember time will go on. So just hang on. Just chill, you know, it’s okay. But also on the bad days, take a little step back. Of course, you have physical battles and mental bad days. And on physical bad days, you have to think about, okay, do I need to like cut a bit on my training so I don’t get injured because injured staying injury free is still the most important part. But on mental days I think training actually helps because even if I don’t feel like it, going to training always makes me happy. I have a very good coach, who I can talk to. I have a boyfriend which I can talk to. I think if I just talk about my feelings and about what’s going on in those bad days, I always get through very well. Bad days always go by, it’s not forever that you feel bad. Just sit it out.

Who are your biggest supporters?

Marlene: Well, I have a few big supporters. Of course, my mum and dad. They are supportive in their own way. My dad really Googles himself to death looking up things about me, so that’s really funny. He sends me lots of links – its kind of annoying but that’s his way of telling me he loves me! My boyfriend is also one of my biggest supports, he has to deal with me every day. And my coach. They are definitely my biggest supporters.

Do you have pre-competition rituals?

Marlene: Yeah, I’m a sucker for that! Of course, I check everything. So, I check my blades, I get all the bolts and I check my spikes. One thing I always do is drink a Red Bull 45-50 minutes before my race. It is a very specific time! It takes some time for the sugar and caffeine to get into your system. And I found my sweet spot is around 45-50 minutes.

I only drink Red Bull for the sprint events. If you drink a Red Bull, which has a lot of sugar and caffeine, it hypes you up, but it can also make you crash. In long jump, a competition can take an hour so you don’t want that crash and that’s why I don’t do it for long jump but only for the sprint events because they’re like 26 seconds at best. I noticed I crash from it about one and a half to one hour and 45 minutes later. So that’s perfect.

What advice would you give a young aspiring Para-athlete? 

Marlene: Have fun. I think the most important thing about training, especially training this much to achieve this level and work very hard, is having fun while doing it. And that’s the most important thing. If you’re not having fun, please go do something else. I don’t care how talented you are. If you don’t like it, go and do something else because you will fall down and you will not be able to get up if you’re not having fun. I think it’s just important for life that you do what you love, that you love what you do.


Thank you so much for the interview, Marlene! All the best for the World Champs in Paris!

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