Biography Jennifer Wichers
At a young age, I was gripped by moving and specifically moving on the judo mat.
Judo has shaped me as a person and, despite many setbacks, a large part of how I made myself develope as a person.
1997: The beginning
At the age of seven my dad brought me to a judo class. I was a lively child and I always liked to frolic around. Judo seemed like the perfect solution: a sport where I could use up all that energy!
I immediately loved it and judo became an important part of my life. My first trainer, Andre Tjeerdsma, taught me the basics. I really enjoyed doing it and it didn’t take long before my teammates took me to tournaments with them.
2002: Expanding in the north of the Netherlands
Later on, I made my way to Groningen. Top Judo Noord crossed my path, which is a cooperation between judo clubs in the north of the Netherlands. This is where my international adventure started: for the first time I went abroad for tournaments and training camps.
2003 and 2004: Dutch Championships
When I was twelve years old, I won my first medal at a Dutch Championship, surprisingly enough in an age category above the one that I actually belonged in. Officially I was supposed to compete in the category -15 years, but I competed and won this medal in the category -17 years! When I was thirteen years old I won my first medal at a Dutch Championship for seniors.
2005: An amazing year!
Internationally I did very well. At the age of fourteen I got an invitation to participate in the Youth Olympics in Lignano. During this amazing experience I got to feel the Olympic vibes. Winning a gold medal there was the icing on the cake. I knew it for sure: I wanted to continue with judo and go for gold at the Olympics!
2006: A big step
At the age of 15 I decided, with the approval of my parents, to move to Groningen. I went to live on my own, go to a new school, and most important of all train more. Already a big step into a completely new world, I also chose to work with another coach. The choice to live on my own at this age brought enormous independence.
2007: On my way to the top
Driven by my passion and my desire for improvement, things went well for me. I grew up in the sport and won many medals both nationally and internationally.
2009 until 2012: The blacklist
In 2009, fate struck. An accident put me off the mat for a long time. A collapsed lung and a heavy concussion threw a spanner in the works on the road to medals. Just recovered from the previous accident and surgery, on a training camp abroad I tore off the medial band in my elbow and a couple months later I also tore my ankle ligaments. In addition, I also got Pfeiffer’s disease.
In between all these disasters I kept on practicing judo, with varying results. Intensive physical therapy and targeted strength training proved to be inadequate over time and operations followed. In 2011 I needed two operations that had to help me back up again.
2013: Hard work pays off
After the operations on my elbow, two years of intensive rehabilitation followed. For two years I drove to Utrecht with my mother at least three times a week to work on recovery. Doubts struck, the first judo training sessions were heavy and especially mentally heavily on me. After much doubt and fear if I was still able to have a good tournament, I decided, together with my team, to take part in the open Swiss championships.
I did not compete in a tournament for two years, but I worked hard every day on recovery and finally got back on the competition mat. The tournament went by in a blur. Every game went automatically: I was in a flow. I threw everyone effortlessly into the most fantastic ippons and also the final was for me: I WON and how! I felt reborn. This was followed by a golden European Cup in London. The year was closed with the title Dutch Champion Seniors. I was ‘back on track’!
2014 and 2015: Worlds best
After a good series of European Cups with many medals – including three gold medals and bronze at the Universiade – I also won three World Cups in these years on the road to my Olympic ambition: to become the best in the world and preferably at that one tournament … the Olympic Games.
2016 a year of contradictions
In 2016 I was again sharp on the mat. I knew how to write the opening tournament of the season with the World Cup in Sofia. As a result, I was added to a series of tournaments at the last minute and a busy period started. I made my debut at the prestigious Paris tournament!
I injured my finger in Warsaw. With turning on a strangulation, something went crazy and a fierce pain in my finger put me on the edge. The game was won but after the game it did not go smoothly. I felt a lot of pain but the adrenaline drove me into the next match, but I could not hold and in the gold score I lost my match. After this match we decided not to judo for the bronze medal. Back in the Netherlands, my finger turned out to have a complex spiral break and was broken in four places. An operation followed and with several screws my finger was reassembled.
With a long rehabilitation period ahead, I could successfully finish my study. I was already writing my thesis and doing research for it. I investigated how judo can contribute to entrepreneurship and/or management. I proceeded as I used to, full of surrender and passion. I had conversations and interviews with entrepreneurs, judo coaches and ex-top athletes. I flew to Budapest to have a very informative and pleasant conversation with the IJF president at the head office of the IJF.
The research became more and more complete, I became more and more enthusiastic and this did not go unnoticed.
Sports Innovation Award
In addition to obtaining my study, my research was awarded with the Sport Innovation Prize and I was also invited to present the research at the European Association Sport Management Congress.
In 2016 I registered at the Chamber of Commerce and I set up Judo Your Business.
In addition, I went to work at the Institute for Sports Studies, Hanze University of Applied Science in Groningen where I went to work in various task areas.
Judo doubt and resistance:
Besides graduating, focusing on a company, working at the Institute for Sports Studies and at the basketball club Donar, I was still recovering from my finger injury.
In the meantime, the centralization plan of the NOC-NSF and the Judo Bond Netherlands was presented as the only way to Olympic gold. This means that I would have to burn all ships behind me and build a new life in Papendal.
Top sport requires sacrifices and total dedication. However, I have not been able to find this dedication at Papendal.
Self at the helm of own ambitions:
Year after year, I have shown that the choices made by my own lead to a continuous improvement of me as an athlete (and not insignificantly as a person). I do not see a future in Papendal for me. According to the Dutch Judo Federation, this means that this is the end of judo topsport for me. I see it differently and will decide what and how I will develop further through a route I have chosen.
2017 – 2018 How about Judo Your Business?
A year in which, for the first time and consciously, I am working more away from the judo competition. Which sometimes is very strange. Top judo has always played the leading role and that’s why all other things happened. Now top judo does not play that role, this will lead to other things on my path.
Working has given me a lot of new insights. From a social point of view, I do many new and cool things. I am also busy writing an article about the research (Judo and entrepreneurship, a challenging combination) for publication.
In addition, I try to continue to develop Judo Your Business and what my company can mean for different target groups and how broadly different programs can be deployed.