Dutch Rio 2016 gold medallist Sanne Voets is looking to regain her European title when the Longines FEI European Championships come to Gothenburg, Sweden, from 22 August.
Two years ago, in Deauville, France, Voets did not have the competition she had hoped for. She went into the 2015 Euros as the reigning freestyle world and European champion, but left without an individual medal. She did pick up silver in the team competition.
However, she bounced back, got a last minute call up for the Dutch Paralympic team, made the trip to Rio with her new horse, Demantur, and in a fairytale ending scooped freestyle gold.
“Rio feels like so long ago and yesterday at the same time – it’s a cliché but it’s true,” she said.
“But I remember every single moment and it strengthened me in so many ways. I had my own belief I could win a gold medal and by doing that I proved myself right. A gold medal makes everything easier in that it makes me feel confident and grown up. Because I have it I don’t want everything now, which makes it easier to let bad things go.”
Voets’ winning Rio routine was special for many reasons, not least for bringing dance music back into the arena. She and Demantur performed to the song “This is What it Feels Like” by Dutch dance star Armin van Buuren, an arrangement that came directly out of her first ever international title at the Europeans in Herning in Denmark, back in 2013.
“Everyone has their own routine at a competition,” she said. “Some have lucky charms, some have special routines. I like to find a quiet place and listen to music. At the 2013 competition I was listening to Armin’s song and then went on to win – for the first time internationally. The song just made me feel confident and gave me energy. It gave me the energy to give a little extra and do to the best I could.
“It also made me realise that if I wanted to win I had to do some things differently and better and I thought why am I searching for new music – go back to ‘This is What it Feels Like.’”
She then contacted van Buuren’s management team who, it would appear by the dozen or so calls and messages she left, were initially skeptical.
“But once I explained what I wanted to do, she added, ‘they said let’s do this!’”
Since her Rio victory Voets has seen her profile in her home country rise. She gives motivational talks, is recognised more often, and was invited as a special guest to van Buuren’s massive birthday concert in Amsterdam. She admits though that, as is normal after a Paralympic Games, 2017 is a quieter year.
“Demantur and I had lovely competitions in Roosendaal and Doha earlier in the year and we’ve been confirmed for the Europeans, which I’m really looking forward too,” she said.
The Netherlands also hope to repeat their historic success from the 2015 Euros, where they became the first team to top the medals table ahead of Great Britain at a major global Para equestrian Championship.
“The Dutch team – with Frank Hosmar, Nicole Den Dulk, and Lotte Krijnsen – is very strong. This could even be the year we finally win the team title,” Voets said.