We continue our River Family series, by meeting Fieke Reijntjes, captain of the Great Britain Open Women’s team (current R4 European Champions and defending R4 World Champions) and member of the IRF Athletes’ Committee. In this series we meet members of our River Family – you! We find out how people got involved, what keeps them motivated and why they stick with it.
We asked Fieke how she got involved in rafting: I worked as a raft guide for a dutch company in the French Alps. Pieter Bekkers, the owner of the company started a women’s raft team I was lucky enough to be part of! I paddled my first international competition with the Dutch team in 2007 in Korea. We were overwhelmed by the experience and the quality of the other women’s rafting teams and that motivated us to push on for the next competitions!
Working together with a group of amazing people to achieve a goal keeps me going! It is so rewarding when all the hard training, planning, fundraising, etc pays off when being in a raft together. That doesn’t just apply to competitions, nailing a slalom move during training can be just as satisfying! I love that the racing takes me all over the world and I get to see countries and cultures in a different way.
Which has been your most memorable race event and why? It’s hard to answer this question because every race is so different and unique in its own way! Our first race in Korea was amazing, our first ever medal in Austria i’ll never forget, the river in Costa Rica was brilliant, our teamwork resulting in a gold in Dubai was fantastic, and the culture in Japan was unforgettable! I could go on and on!
Worst moment on a river? I missed out on paddling the WRC R4 competition in Holland with the Dutch team. I would have loved to paddle against the other teams on that course, being able to have family and friends coming over to watch us.
What impact has rafting got on your life? A big impact! I learnt so much about myself, teamwork and training in the last few years (and there was quite a bit to learn!). It’s fair to say I wouldn’t have the job, house, partner and friends I have now if it wasn’t for rafting.
What do you do outside of rafting – how do you maintain a life balance?
I love sports and really enjoy mixing up raft training with running, swimming, cycling or whatever to stay fit. I work for British Canoeing at the Lee Valley White Water Centre and am very lucky because I am able to train and work in the same place. I try to plan a holiday after the international competitions so it feels like I do get some time to relax after the competitions. Pas, my parents and sister (in the Dutch team) will often travel to the competitions which means I can combine these holidays with time with my family in the most beautiful parts of the world.
Any words of wisdom to those new to raft racing?
Enjoy being with your teammates and overcoming the challenges of White Water together! There is not much fame and fortune involved in this sport but if you enjoy the sport and people around you the friendships and unforgettable memories are priceless!
What do you think is the key strength of the IRF?
The people who run and are members of the IRF! It is not about the money or status but they are involved because of the love of this sport.
Where do you see rafting heading in the future?
I would love to see the best of both worlds across the two rafting disciplines. The R4 lends itself perfectly for artificial courses where the organisation is professional and conditions are stable and the same for everyone. The R6 would be perfect for the real test of river running skills, paddling big water in extreme conditions.
When will we see you next?
The WRC in Argentina :-), Can’t wait!!
Fieke is one of our River Family. Are You?
#AreYouReady #RaftersAreAwesome #RiverFamily #StrongerTogether #WeAreIRF
We’re looking for more stories of River Family – if you have a story to tell, email Sean with your story and photos.