Series: Olympic Games

En route to Paris: Laila Youssifou

In July, the Olympic Games will be held in Paris. TU Delft top athletes are ready to compete. What are their lives like and are they ready? Part 3: rower Laila Youssifou.

(Photo: Sam Rentmeester)

One year ago you and Roos de Jong were preparing for competing in the Olympic Games in the quad (4x). Now you will compete in the double four in Paris. How did this happen?

“Changing from the double to the quad was hard. In rowing, if you change to another position it feels like giving up. I struggled with this. But we have now been a double four for a few months and our team has grown more unified.”

Roos de Jong and Tessa Dullemans, other TU Delft students, are also in the team. This makes the double four a ‘TU Delft’ boat. What is it like?

“I have known both Tessa and Roos for a very long time. Tessa is also in Laga, and I share the club spirit with her. The study pressure at TU Delft is higher than at many other universities, so it is an advantage that she understands this.”

What you think your chances at a medal are?

“I would rather not speculate about this as you have no control over how good the other competitors are. We are aiming for the highest level and are training towards this.”

‘After Paris, I plan to graduate. My study will then take precedence over my sports’

Your first Games had a lot of restrictions because of the pandemic. What are you expecting from Paris?

“Friends and family can come and watch, and this is valuable. The Olympic Games are a very special event in your career as a top athlete so it is meaningful to be able to share it with the people you care about. We could not do this in Tokyo.”

What experiences are you bringing with you from the last Games?

“Being part of the Olympic Games is amazing, but it is also overwhelming for athletes. I know from the previous time how hard it is to maintain your concentration and how nervous you can feel in the finals.”

You will not stay in the Olympic Village, but at a location close to the rowing area. How can you ensure that you still have that Olympic feeling?

“The first week will be about our competition, so I will try to keep any distractions at arm’s length. But the rowing competition finishes in the second week so that is when I will enjoy the event.”

What are your plans after Paris?

“I have always studied alongside rowing, except for the half year before the Olympic Games. It is hardly possible to study while competitive rowing as we spend a lot of time training. After Paris, I plan to graduate. My study will then take precedence over my sports. I am not yet sure what I will do after I graduate. It’s completely open.”

Who: Laila Youssifou
Date of birth: 2 January 1996
Study: Engineering and Policy Analysis (master’s)
Sport: Rowing
Sports association: D.S.R.V. Laga
Team: National Rowing Team, quad (4x)
Position: Bow
Status: Boat qualified for Paris

News editor Marjolein van der Veldt

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