Photographer:Fotograaf: Joey Roberts
The seven sins of swimmer Merle Verkijk
- Greed. I’m crazy about training swimsuits, I like buying them in all sorts of bright colours and prints. They tend to wear out quickly because of the chlorine. Fortunately, there are always new collections: a good excuse to go looking for the next one. I usually buy them one size too small, preferably high cut, so there’s a bit of wedgie going on [winks].
- Gluttony. Swimmers burn a lot of calories. So I eat whatever I want, although I do prefer vegetables over snacks or fries, unless they’re from the air fryer, haha. I love sushi, can absolutely gorge on it. How much I weigh isn’t that informative; it could be either fat or muscles. I just look in the mirror. After a tough training session I’ll make up for any deficiencies with chocolate milk or protein bars. I don’t really like the taste of protein shakes.
- Lust. My boyfriend is my coach. We got together in Eindhoven; two years ago we were both living and swimming at a training centre there. He’s originally from Heerlen and moved back to become a trainer, among other reasons. After a while I decided to train under him. It was a big decision, yes, because something like that could go either way. In the beginning we’d often have words, I always knew better. But the more my performance improved the more I realised he was usually right. I’m not good at saying sorry, but I’m trying to get better at it. ‘Indecent’ things are pretty common in swimming [grins]. You’re in the water together, in only a bathing suit or shorts, fit bodies … so there’s a high chance of attraction. Me? I’ve never really been one to fool around. After all, you don’t want to get a reputation.
- Envy. There are people my age who’ve already been to a World Cup or the Olympics. Of course I sometimes think ‘what if’, but I made a conscious choice to combine my swimming with my studies. The chances that you’re going to be a really top swimmer are small, let alone make a living from it. As for jealousy in my relationship: I quite like it when he gets attention from other girls. I’m not worried; we’ve been together for six years and are now engaged.
- Sloth. When it comes to housekeeping I’m super lazy and clumsy. We live together, and I’m lucky my boyfriend does a lot around the house. Me, I like to sleep. My father used to say, ‘Merle has three hobbies: swimming, sleeping and eating.’
- Wrath. Aye. I come across as sweet – which I am – but I’ve got a lot of fight in me too. I can put up with a lot, but when I’m done with something, I’m really done. If a training session doesn’t go well, I get frustrated and I’ll hit the water, throw stuff and my boyfriend cops it as well. It’s a sort of release for me – my teammates are used to it, haha.
- Pride. I think all athletes have to be confident, at least I am. But when I put too much pressure on myself and have too many competitions on my plate, things go wrong. I can’t sleep and I end up not performing the way I did in training. That’s something I experienced a few years ago. Now I do what I enjoy. When I’m relaxed, I swim much better. I’m vain; I’m proud of my body and like showing it off. Maybe that can come across as arrogant, but I don’t really care what others think of me.
Merle Verkijk, 23, Master in Dutch Law, specialising in Criminal Law, born and raised in Zoetermeer
Trains eight to twelve hours per week for the Dutch national championships in December 2017, member of the Albion swimming club in South Holland (trains in Heerlen)
Best performance to date: two-time Dutch champion in the 200 metres butterfly
This is a series about students who sport at the highest level