Elite athletes strive to be the best, facing the next challenge in their lives after they retire. This is no different for a Paralympic athlete. Elite Alpine Skier for team Netherlands, 33-year-old Anna Jochemsen, has achieved an impressive scope of medals throughout her career, but now it’s time to hang up her skis, and transition into the business world.
Anna was born with only part of her leg, but this didn’t stop her from pursuing her dreams as a strong, independent sportswoman with a determination to compete at the highest level. It was Anna’s father who encouraged her to ski when she was just 7 years old, skiing made her happy, and therefore decided to learn how to ski with a professional coach and competed in her first competition at 23.
Skiing became a full-time career for Anna as she trained 6 days a week, 3 to 4 hours a day and 25 weeks of the year in the mountains, skiing as often as she could. Competing internationally since 2007, Anna won the European Cup and placed 6thin the world championships during the 2012/2013 season, an immediate qualification for the Paralympic games in Sochi 2014. Although only reaching next to the medals in Sochi, Anna went on to win a bronze World Championship medal in the Super combination.
As well as competing in sport, focusing on her education was also something which was important to Anna: “I completed my Master’s degree in Nutrition and Health in 2016 which allowed me then to focus on training and competitions to be in top shape for the Paralympic games 2018.” All athletes inevitably retire from their professional sports, and when they do, some form of educational background behind them supports to open doors to various options during the transition.
“In my whole career, I have many people to thank. My coach Falco Teitsma taught me a lot and showed a lot of patience with me. But I admired fellow ski racers, looked up to them and tried to learn from them. At the start of my career there was an American girl who skied really well on a single leg, and so did my male teammate. Seeing them ski convinced me to work harder to get better.
“My biggest achievement was at the end of my career. In Kimberley, Canada, I won a World Cup downhill. But I’m very proud of the Bronze medal at the World Championships in 2015,” continued Anna.
Anna’s sporting career has not always been full of achievements. There were days like most where she didn’t feel at the top of her game, but perseverance is what can really change the mindset of an athlete and this in turn can ensure those moments become some of their happiest times. “There was a time that I performed less well in races than I did in training. I worked hard to get the mental state relaxed and confident to take risks. When this worked out, I skied really well and ended high up on the finish list. I can still recall this feeling of being proud, happy and confident,” said Anna.
Transitioning from any competitive sport can be difficult for an athlete as they find their way in a completely new environment, learning new skills on a daily basis. One of the biggest differences athletes struggle with is not having a schedule and having a smaller support network around them. Athlete Career Transition work alongside athletes to ensure this process is as seamless as possible. The team at ACT understand the challenges an athlete faces at this point in their career and know how to support them into preparing for the next stage of their transition.
“ACT really helped me in the entire process. As a sparring partner they helped me to make up my mind. Their help gave me confidence in this completely new situation. Besides advice about the job at EY, they gave me good advice about how to look at my sporting career,” said Anna.
Steve Moore, former Welsh international rugby player and founder of ACT, has supported a variety of athletes facing this point in their career and works to successfully prepare them for a transition from elite sport, “Working closely from start to finish with the athletes, we identify their current skillset to help them understand how to channel those skills into the next stage of their career. Building the confidence of an athlete is extremely important throughout the transition process, because ultimately, an athlete will have lost a big part of their support network, leaving them apprehensive about the journey ahead. Not only do we give them support in terms of advice, but our specialist team will work with them on the psychological aspect of the transition to ensure they’re ready to take on the next challenge. We’re with them every step of the way.”
Looking forward to her new position with EY, Anna said: “Until now the most challenging part about transitioning was the fact that I would have to quit high performance sports. EY will be a completely new challenge. I’m looking forward to learning a lot and working hard. But maybe the most challenging part is still to come. Starting at EY makes me very excited but I will need time to get used to the new environment and expectations.”
Anna Jochemsen, an inspiration to many young people looking to pursue sports, and perhaps one of the greatest examples of how disability is in no way a barrier to high performance.