Age is just a number for Olympic gold medallist Femke Heemskerk, who returns to the LEN European Short Course stage in Glasgow looking to add to her tally of four golds in the competition.
Having started swimming aged nine at the Z&PC Alkemade club after being inspired by the exploits of Pieter van den Hoogenband and Inge de Bruijn at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Heemskerk has gone on to become one of the most recognisable Dutch athletes in the pool.
And 12 years on from being crowned long course world champion for the first time, the 32-year-old still believes she has the ability to compete for the pool’s top prizes.
She said: “I hear jokes, granny this and granny that, but it’s not an issue for me. It is just how you feel yourself and I do not feel my age.”
The Dutch freestyler was part of the women’s and mixed relay teams that were crowned 4x50m Freestyle champions last time out at Copenhagen 2017, while she also sealed an individual silver in the 200m Freestyle.
Owner of five individual national records across all strokes, Heemskerk burst on to the international scene at the 2005 Long Course World Championships, claiming her first medal two years later at the same event with bronze in the 4x100m Freestyle.
The 32-year-old notched her first individual gong in 2008 with silver in the 200m Freestyle at the World Short Course Championships and was part of the Dutch team that took gold in the 4x100m Freestyle at the Beijing Olympics later that year.
In the same event, Heemskerk went on to win Long Course World Championships gold in 2009 and 2011 – and Short Course World gold in 2010 – before adding silver to her Olympic tally at London 2012.
The Doha Short Course World Championships in 2014 produced some of her best results, as she claimed four gold medals – including individual 100m Freestyle – and one bronze.
Since then, her two gold medals in Denmark – and a gold as part of the 4x100m Freestyle team that were triumphant at the 2016 Long Course European Championships in London – have been among her biggest successes.
With the Dutch team selecting a small squad of swimmers they believe will be in the mix for glory in Glasgow, the competition provides an opportunity for Heemskerk to maintain her position as one of the brightest sparks in the sport.
Follow Femke on social
Twitter – @FemkeHeemskerk
Instagram – @femheemskerk
Short Course Personal Bests
50m Freestyle – 23.67
100m Freestyle – 51.29
200m Freestyle – 1:51.69
Fun Fact – In 2019 she began studying for a master’s degree in coaching at the Johan Cruyff Institute