Paralympic champion Marlou van Rhijn believes her new coaching set-up will provide the key to world record success as she prepares to go for double gold at July’s London 2017 World Para Athletics Championships.
The Dutch sprinter joined forces with UK-based coach Keith Antoine - who looks after double Paralympic gold medallist Richard Whitehead – last December.
It was a move driven by van Rhijn’s desire to lower her own 100m T43 world record yet again.
“Working towards London 2017 and Tokyo 2020 I wanted to improve and have a coach who not only had an understanding of Para athletics, but who worked with athletes who had already won medals because that was the biggest difference after London 2012,” explained van Rhijn, who won 200m gold and 100m T44 silver at the London Games.
“For London it was about running for gold; for Rio it was maintaining your gold. And now I still want to improve, so I wanted a coach who knew how you could improve even if you were already a triple Paralympic champion.”
After winning double sprint gold at Rio 2016, van Rhijn took two months off then headed to Antoine’s Loughborough training base to find out more about his set up there.
“Straight away I just really liked his way of working, his philosophy and training,” she explained.
“I felt like I was missing something in the last two years because I felt I could go way faster - I’ve improved but I felt like I could improve more. Then Keith explained to me his ways of training and it just clicked; I thought, ‘This is what I was missing.’”
She may have lowered the world record a phenomenal nine times in the last five years, but van Rhijn is adamant that she has not yet reached her best.
She explained: “I really believe that I can go faster. The race in Rio was good, but it can be so much better. I know there is lots of room for improvement, I just didn’t really know where that improvement was - and now I do.”
While the 25-year-old returned home from Brazil with two gold medals to add to her collection, she finished just 0.02 seconds ahead of Germany’s Irmgard Bensusan in the 100m.
Now she is determined to widen that gap and shave more time off her world record which currently stands at 12.79 – a mark she set at last year’s Grand Prix in Nottwil, Switzerland.
For now, van Rhijn maintains her base in the Netherlands, visiting the UK when necessary. It’s an arrangement she feels works well.
“I just have my programme and I know what to do, (Antoine) explained it very well so it feels like I could do it anywhere. If we have some very particular things I just come over to the UK and make it better,” she added.
Victory in London this summer will mean the Dutch ‘Blade Babe’ joins an elite group of track and field stars from around the world who have achieved the remarkable ‘treble double’ – two gold medals at three World Championships.
It’s a feat van Rhijn was not even aware of: “I’d never realised it, that gives me some motivation!” so what keeps her going?
“The feeling that I can go faster – if I lose that feeling I will quit because it’s just no fun if you can’t improve,” she replied.
As for returning to London, the scene of her first Paralympic medal in her debut year of international competition, it’s safe to say she cannot wait. A world record there would be the icing on the cake.
“It’s definitely the goal and I would be crazy if I said I don’t want to do it. Because obviously you always want to run fast, and London would be a good place to do it.
“It’s such a big competition in a stadium I like to call ‘my stadium’ because I had the best time there in 2012, so it’s really fun to go back.”
The London 2017 World Para Athletics Championships will take place between 14-23 July. To buy tickets click here.