CHAPTER 1Eyeing Gold

“Clean up your sports bags.” This is what my mum and dad said every day when my brother and I came home from our Judo training. For some reason, we were in the habit of dropping our sports bags right behind the door when we entered the house.

Kees, my younger brother, and I trained in the Dutch national selection for Judo. Our sports bags contained Judo suits, wet towels, our Judo belts, and materials to prevent injuries. Those bags were heavy—probably too heavy to carry them inside to the scullery where the washing machine was. As soon as we put one foot in the house, we dropped the bags. (Maybe this bad habit runs in the family, because I recognize the same behavior with my kids, and so does Kees.)

My dad had his own company and always came home late. As soon as he opened the door, he needed to “climb” inside. In a loud, irritated voice, he let us know that our behavior was not acceptable. But for some reason, we could not change this behavior. I must admit, perhaps we did not try hard enough and we were just lazy.

If I remember correctly, this laziness was the only behavior that didn’t suit our role as top athletes in martial arts. Judo is a Japanese martial art that requires a lot of discipline and respect. It also requires lots of practice to master all the skills.

LAYING THE GROUNDWORK

Kees and I began taking Judo lessons when we were five years old. We attended classes at a local sports club with lots of other kids. Mum and dad spent lots of ...

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