6 March 2023

Top athlete #2: swimmer Judith Houtvast

In our series on students who are top sport athletes, Judith Houtvast is next to speak. Judith (19) already swam several National Championships and is also studying in the second year of the bachelor's programme in Biomedical Sciences. How does she do it and where does she put her priorities? She tells us below.



Should Judith adjust her sporting ambitions now that she is putting her study programme first? "Yes, I definitely have to. For example, in the past period, there were training sessions where I did not make the training incentives you need to improve yourself in terms of endurance, speed, etc. My endurance at the moment is not what I would like it to be. So, when I would stand at a competition next to someone who trains 23 hours or even more a week, it does make a difference. I have competed in the National Championships for several years and would eventually like to swim the European Short Course Championships as well. But I have to be realistic now that my studies come first. The technique will remain, but I really need endurance to make it. I do think I can pick it up again later when I have more time."

European Championships or exams?

After her bachelor’s, Judith wants to do a master's programme. She hesitates between immunology and neurology. "Look, the chances of me making it to the Olympics are very small and there is not much to earn with swimming. So I really have to rely on my education later on." Suppose she had to choose between exams and competing in the European Championships: "If I ever reach that level, I would choose the European Championships, but I would also explore what is possible in terms of exams. I got into the UM Top Sports programme last year, but haven't had to use it yet. I can just go to all the teaching groups and participate in the exams. But I know the possibility exists to switch teaching groups and join the resits if you can't be at the exam because of a competition."

Rescue swimming

Besides 'regular' swimming, Judith now trains for competitions with the rescue team. "I did additional training and got my licence for rescue swimming. I am now also allowed to join the Dutch team for rescue swimming and competitions are coming up soon. In the Netherlands it is not so well known, competitions in rescue swimming, but in other countries it is, like in Australia." Does Judith have a tip for other top sports students? "Planning is crucial, because you want to do well in both your study programme and your sport. But it is also important to stop and enjoy yourself every now and then."

By: Margot Krijnen
Photography: Joris Hilterman