In a series of thirty personal conversations with Olympic athletes, we count down the CCeit Olympic podcast to Tokyo 2021. Henry Schut and Jeroen Stekelenburg will visit athletes who are preparing for next year’s Olympic Games. In a personal conversation they will talk about life as an athlete and the preparation for the global event.
The guests are the crème de la crème of Dutch top sport, and in most cases also medal candidates in Tokyo. This week Henry Schut will talk to Noël van ‘t End, world champion judo.
Schut speaks Van ‘t End in Anton Geesink’s old gym, in the Ondiep district of Utrecht. A historical place in Dutch judo, which however is not preserved and is currently for sale. Apartments are being built in it.
Van ‘t End: “What has walked around here. Anton Geesink, Wim Ruska, Ben Spijkers. How many training hours have been made here. That gives me goose bumps. You can smell that when you’re here.”
The Olympic Games of Rio de Janeiro ended in a fiasco for Van ‘t End. In his first match he immediately went under and lost his A-status of sports dome NOC*NSF. He ended up in a big dip, but regained the world title in 2019. “They were deep dips, but they led to high peaks.”
His plan is clear. Judo is plan A. “I’d rather go 100 percent for one thing than 75 percent for everything. So I can’t make excuses. After my career, I’ll see what I’m going to do. Maybe start a study, or a gym”, Van ‘t End muses about what might be waiting for him after his judo career.
“But I do not want to be too busy with plan B. Plan A must succeed.” So for now everything has to give way, even a possible relationship. “I would like to be open to it, but it is difficult.”
Van ‘t End became world champion last year in Japan, in the hall where Anton Geesink conquered Olympic gold in 1964. Things have changed since then.
Lunch with the king
“Nice things. Like lunch with the king, or a meeting with prime minister Rutte. You don’t say no to that. I talked to Rutte about breathing techniques I use to relieve stress. Of course, he suffers from them sometimes. At the king’s, you sit at a lunch like this among all sorts of winners.”
“I was there with Twan van Gendt (world champion BMX, ed.) and Virgil van Dijk. You go to the athletes. But you also sit at the table with scientists or, for example, singer Duncan Laurence. You don’t normally meet them either.”
The World Cup won has created confidence. “I now know that I am capable of such things. It often just didn’t work out. That World Cup could not be better. I won it in a fantastic way, it couldn’t have been better. That’s what makes me so confident. Then you know, you can do anything. So I can win the Olympics. But I can also lie on my back. That’s judo too.”