Sailing duo Zegers-Berkhout lives as a couple to Games: ‘You have to become one’

On the Canary Island of Lanzarote, the entire Dutch sailing team lifts the sails. The Dutch team is preparing for the Tokyo Olympics.

But the Netherlands is not the only country to visit the sea, the sun and the beach of the Canary Islands. โ€œThe whole world summit is preparing here. So we can see how we stand,โ€ says head coach Jaap Zielhuis.

It is necessary to draw up the balance sheet, because what exactly does the Netherlands stand? Last year around this time it rained medals and counted no less than three world champions on the water. So a great course towards the Games. And then, we know, corona.

Tension Arc

โ€œ Everyone has dealt with it in their own way. One is much more relaxed in that, the other trains very hardโ€, says Zielhuis. โ€œOver the entire width of the plow, we have not been able to hold that tension curve, that momentum.โ€

The competitions in the summer and autumn did not go so vigorously. The coach calls the moment a โ€œwake-up callโ€ for the Orange team. โ€œWe are not that good and so much better than the rest,โ€ looks back.

For sailing duo Afrodite Zegers and Lobke Berkhout, the postponement of the Games was a ‘blessing in disguise’. As the two decided to join each other in the 470 class just before the 2020 Games, the preparation for Tokyo was tight. The sudden year extra because of the coronapandemic also meant a year longer getting used to each other.

โ€œ In the 470 you really have to become one as two peopleโ€, says the experienced Berkhout. And that‘s exactly where the duo had the time and came up with an interesting solution. Zegers and her little dog moved in with Berkhout and her daughter. โ€œThis allowed us to continue training with each other. We were a kind of couple,โ€ says Zegers.

Missing Gold

Because the competitions and trainings fell away, the duo started to delve into the communication. โ€œSometimes the words have to come out in a certain way. No whole sentences, because then it becomes a messy story,โ€ says Berkhout. โ€œWe’ve come to understand each other better.โ€

Zegers: โ€œThe words used and the tone, but also the moment.โ€ The duo analyzed the communication to the last detail and that has paid off. Birch wood looks forward with confidence to the Games, which will be on the role this summer.

For her, the opportunity to add that missing gold Olympic medal to her impressive palmares. โ€œThis extra year makes us even more stable. When I look at how we travel around here against the best teams in the world, we are wrong or in front of itโ€, concludes the five-time world champion resolutely.