As a child, Sarissa van Veenendaal (NED) never stuck with a sport for more than 1-2 years. Not until she tried Canoe Polo at the age of 14, that is. Since then Canoe Polo has been her sport, and at The World Games 2022 she will fight for medals with her team in Birmingham, Alabama. She is our athlete this week Building up to Birmingham!
“I am not very good at doing the same thing for a long time,” van Veenendaal says. “Even as a child enjoying sport, I would change sports every 1 or 2 years. When I was 14, we happened to drive past the canoe club where there was an Open Day at the time. I started canoeing, and soon after that I started canoe polo. Canoe Polo was the first sport I played for more than two years in succession.”
Why have you chosen Canoe Polo as your sport; what is special about this sport?
A lot of things here. The sport itself requires many different skills. You have to be able to canoe, be handy with a ball, and be in good condition. Besides the different sport skills, it is also a team sport. So you have to be able to cope with your team-mates. Canoe Polo is usually played outdoors, and this means that weather conditions also influence the game.
What does Canoe Polo training look like? What do you normally do to train?
It depends very much on the time of year. In the winter there are almost no tournaments: it is then that you lay the foundation for the season. That means mainly strength training and conditioning training. In the winter it is also too cold to do practice matches; with cold fingers it is very difficult to hold a ball. There is also time in the winter for alternative sports.
In the summer you are at tournaments almost every weekend. In the week itself usually a short condition training, strength training, ball exercises and some practice matches.
In winter, condition training is aimed at creating an endurance condition. In summer it is more interval training. This is also for strength training; in the summer you mainly exercise for explosive power.
Your team has qualified for The World Games 2022 in Birmingham, Alabama. What expectations do you have for The World Games 2022?
That it be an even better edition than in 2017! Only the best teams are present at the World Games, so every match will be tough and challenging. Our team this year is one of the best in a long time. We are not going for anything less than a medal.
If you can watch other sports during The World Games, which sports would you at least like to see?
I love many different sports, so it is very difficult to choose. But I think Sport Climbing and Squash.
If you’d need to compete in another sport of The World Games, what would it be?
Sport Climbing or Squash. I try to do both sports in the winter as training sometimes.
How will you be training and preparing in the months before The World Games 2022?
The last few months before the World Games are all about those 4 days of competition at the World Games. That means many weekends away with the selected group or with your club team at tournaments. Training every day during the week. Because this demands a lot, balance is also very important. You also want to be mentally fit for The World Games. Sometimes it is better to skip a training session, if this means that you can do the following workouts when you are again 100% physically and mentally fit.
Do you do other sports than Canoe Polo? What do you besides sport?
I am not made to do just one sport. That is why I really enjoy the winter as well, where there is more room for other sports. I mountain-bike every week, and one of my strength training sessions is pole dancing. In winter I often go bouldering and sometimes play squash.
I work as a pension specialist at Capgemini. Because Canoe Polo is an unpaid and small sport in the Netherlands, I work full-time. I am lucky that my employer understands my situation and I can get time off for tournaments or training if necessary.
Your team finished 5th at The World Games 2017. What memories do you have of the Games?
My memories are twofold. The World Games itself as an event was fantastic to experience. From a sporting point of view, it did not go as we had hoped. I am therefore very much looking forward to the new chance this year.
Sarissa van Veenendaal also got several questions from social media:
What is most difficult in Canoe Polo?
The different skills that are required. You need to be able to canoe, handle a ball, understand tactics, be able to play together, etc.
What do you eat before matches?
Two hours before a match slow carbohydrates, and just before the match fast sugars.
One of your goals for 2022?
I think finding a good balance between sport and private life. Especially during the season, you are training a lot or you are away on tournaments. This also means missing parties, and less time for friends outside of Canoe Polo. Finding a good balance in this is difficult.
What skill or skills are most important in Canoe Polo?
I don't think one skill is more important than another. That's what makes Canoe Polo such a great sport.
Have you done long-distance canoeing?
No. To be honest, I find normal canoeing quite boring – unless it is on holiday in a beautiful area. But otherwise I miss the action that you have when playing Canoe Polo.
The World Games is a multi-sport event staged every four years by the International World Games Association, organised with the support of the International Olympic Committee. The 11th edition of The World Games will be held in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, 7-17 July 2022. 3,600 athletes from 34 sports and over 100 countries will take part in The World Games.