NU.nl has published an extensive interview with a Dutch Olympian for the last week of the Olympic Games. Episode 2 windsurfer Kiran Badloe (26), had to defeat Dorian van Rijsselberghe, a two-time Olympic champion, to reach Tokyo. He is now the title favourite. “You learned windsurf to be cool in your flip-flops.
The interview at the National Top Sailing Center, The Hague just began when Lilian de Geus smiles as she walks past. The three-time champion windsurfing world champion had earlier folded Badloe’s car mirrors and moved all the stuff into the trunk to the front seat.
Badloe smiles to De Geus, “I saw your car and thought: You are a crook.” “I spent at least ten more minutes cleaning up before I was able to drive away.”
Is this joke appropriate for the relaxed atmosphere of windsurfing
Badloe: It’s great that we can teasingly a bit. We create a place where it’s fun for a while, but someone always watches to ensure that we are following the rules. It is physically the same performance, but it is much easier to train mentally.
Windsurfing can be physically demanding but it is still a lifestyle and not a sport.
Maybe that’s because of the days when windsurfing was done in swim trunks and tanks and you wore flip-flops to look cool. It’s cool, we think, to keep that image.
You will also be able to see what happens behind the scenes, such as the hard training sessions and the pee in the gym. We work very hard like all Olympic athletes. However, this is where I perform my best. When I am at my best, I can be relaxed and enjoy the company of others.
What if you could find that which suits you the best?
“I was fortunate enough to be able join Dorian when he was eighteen. While we could have made it work by having a strict schedule of sleeping and working, we discovered that we got a lot more from it when we had fun. Dorian has passed and I have taken over. We are now moving forward.”
Roll of Honor Kiran Badloe
- World Cup: Three golds (2019-2021, 2021), one silver (2018), and one bronze (2016)
- EC: 2x gold (2019, 2021), and 1x bronze (2020).
Due to his achievements, Kiran Badloe is the favorite for Olympic gold.
“Our friendship was more valuable than being the man for a year.”
Dorian van Rijsselberghe is Dorian van Rijsselberghe. He is the only man to hold two Olympic titles in windsurfing. The 32-year-old Texel rider won the gold medal in the RSX class in London in 2012 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016, but will not defend his title at Tokyo. The Netherlands can only send a single male windsurfer to Games. Badloe won the qualification fight of his friend and trainer partner and was named the 2019 and 2020 world champions. Van Rijsselberghe ended his career after the decisive World Cup one and a quarter years ago.
Are you still in contact with Van Rijsselberghe often?
Badloe says: “It’s funny, when we were training partners and we really did everything together while we were sailing. We lost touch once we got back home. We asked each other when we were leaving for the airport, and then we headed back.
“That was fine. But, when corona came last year, Dorian broke down and we were both back at home. After three months, we picked up the phone to say to one another: “Guy, we should both call every now an then because we were going to meet eachother.” For the moment, we don’t talk to each other anymore. “We now speak to each other every day or every few days.”
After the 2018 World Cup, Kiran Badloe and Dorian van Rijsselberghe won silver and gold, respectively.
You have become good friends. Was it easy to connect with Van Rijsselberghe when you began your 2013 training?
“Yes, even though we had a very different relationship in the beginning. Dorian, six years older than I am, was an Olympic champion and I was just coming to watch. This made a lasting impression on my mind. I soon noticed that they had the same senses of humor and got along well. It was also great on the water because our training sessions were so high, that we encouraged each other to do better.
Did you ever think, “I can beat Van Rijsselberghe!”?
“Around Rio Games there was a time when I noticed I was going faster than Dorian during the training sessions. However, at that point I did not give Dorian enough respect. Dorian is a great athlete, so it was okay to be behind him. When I realized that I needed to pass him in order to get to the Games, it clicked. I have won every game since.
“It was only when I realized that I had to pass Dorian to make it to the Games that a switch clicked. And since then I’ve actually won every game.”
You were both about equal in your abilities and you often fought each other for the top spot. This rivalry often leads to hatred or envy. You have never seen this happen to you.
“I believe we were very lucky to begin working together before we had a rivalry. The friendship was formed first. Only then did it become: “Shit, we are equally good, we must compete for one Olympic tickets, now what?” Both of us were raised this way. We are both sober enough now to realize that friendship is so much more than our being mean to each other, or maybe the man for one.
This is a rational thought. However, it does not always work in sports. Van Rijsselberghe’s world title was something you fought for a while. He got in your way of your Olympic debut 2016. Isn’t that a very human thing to do?
“Yes, but we were at different stages of our careers. I was young enough to see that there were still many opportunities. It was the perfect situation for Tokyo. Dorian had had a great career and two Olympic golds. These Games were a bonus for him. It was really “now or never” for me.
“In the end, we could both always be at peace with it. We also celebrated last year together at the bar in our Australian hotel, where I was allowed into the Games. We have been so dominant over the years.”
Kiran Badloe could be the last Olympic champion for the RSX category. The windsurfers can start foiling from the Paris 2024 Games.
‘Bonaire, paradise on Earth for me’
It’s not obvious that the windsurfing world has seen two Dutchmen split the major prizes over the past decade. It is a very small sport in the Netherlands, and it is too cold to be on a board on water in winter. “I also had no idea what windsurfing was,” Badloe says. “Until I was nine years old, I was sitting on Bonaire’s shelf for the first time.”
What if we had not lived on Bonaire since the age of six?
“No. “Windsurfing is not part of my family’s culture. My father is a big football fanatic. Without those years on Bonaire, I would have probably played football in a group of friends and taken part in the third-half on Saturdays.
It was your idea ADFor fear of losing your ideal image, you won’t be able to go back to Bonaire.
“Imagine me walking around with the head of an infant. Everything was beautiful, perfect and big. It was paradise for me. That ideal picture is gone forever, I fear. That period has a lot to offer.”
“Windsurfing is not 100 meters of athletics. There are an awful lot of variables.”
You can see it prominently on your site: “As child, I dreamed about one day becoming the greatest windsurfer in all of the land.” Is that what you saw on Bonaire?
“No, that was when we were back in the Netherlands at thirteen. I won more races in the World Youth Championships held in Poland than any world champion, and that was when the dream began.
Now you are the three-time world champion, and the favorite to win the Olympic title in Tokyo.
I am the top favorite, and that is something I enjoy. However, I try to explain to people that windsurfing is complex and there are many variables that I must control. This also means that things can go wrong. It’s not 100 meters of athletics.
“In addition to the Games being postponed, all my competitors have an extra year to reach their goals and they succeeded. There are a few retarded men now.”
Do you feel any obligation to make Van Rijsselberghe the successor by extending the title of ‘Dutch?
“I really want the Olympic gold medal. Although Dorian was the best in Rio, and I beat him on the qualifying stage for Tokyo, I don’t feel any pressure to get gold.
“Due to Dorian’s intense battle and the fact that only one person per country is allowed in Tokyo, I feel that the Dutch hope of windsurfing lies with us. It is a cool feeling. I sail for the Netherlands and not with Kiran Badloe. It’s something I look forward to.
This episode 2 was part of an interview series featuring Dutch Olympians. Monday’s episode featured Anna van der Breggen, a cyclist. Later this week, Thom de Boer, a swimmer will be following. Lois Abbingh, handbalster BMX’s Laura Smulders, Merel Smulders.