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Rijken: 'I'll Need To Keep Pushing Myself'
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Frank Rijken, the youngest member of the Dutch men's gymnastics team at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, intends to build on the experience he gained in recent years and bolster his team's chances to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Games. Pictured: Rijken at the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow

Frank Rijken, the youngest member of the Dutch men's gymnastics team at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, intends to build on the experience he gained in recent years and bolster his team's chances to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Born November 24, 1996, in Westvoorne, Rijken first took up gymnastics in his hometown because his siblings were already in the sport. He later trained at SDS Rotterdam along with his elder sister Marlies Rijken, who was a member of the Dutch women's team at the 2010 Worlds in Rotterdam and the 2011 Worlds in Tokyo. He now trains at R & D Zwijndrecht.

Rijken helped the Dutch team placed 11th at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, where he finished 33rd all-around in qualifications. He was also part of the Dutch team that finished 11th at the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow, from which it advanced to the Olympic test event in April 2016. Rijken and his teammates clinched their Olympic team berth by virtue of their third-place finish at the test event, becoming the first full Dutch men's gymnastics team at the Olympics since the 1928 Games in Amsterdam.

Rijken recently spoke with IG Online about his plans to return to Olympic competition, starting with this fall's world championships in Montreal.


IG: How would you rate your personal performance in Rio?

FR: I was the most inexperienced member by far, but I still did some big and important competitions. As a senior, I competed in the 2015 European Games in Baku, and I competed at the (2015) World Championships in Glasgow and the test event in Rio. So, I did have a bit of experience in the bigger events. My team trusted me to perform a good all-around competition, and that gave me the confidence to perform one. For me, the competition was an amazing experience with a very decent all-around competition.


Rijken at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio

IG: Qualifying a team for Rio was a huge accomplishment for the Dutch team, but some people think the Dutch could have performed even better than they did. Why do you think you team did not perform well enough to advance to the team final?

FR: Qualifying a team for the Olympics was a huge accomplishment for us. It's something we built towards for four years and it's awesome if it pays off like that. For the Olympic team, the staff had to make a balance between a good team score and a good chance of individual finals. In this balance, you'll have to take some risk, because we didn't have a back-up on some apparatuses. Despite this risk, we managed to get the highest ranking a Dutch team ever made, so we were all pleased with the debut we made.

IG: Knowing that there will be no team competition in Montreal, what do you think you will need to qualify for a spot there?

FR: Our head coach has set certain scores on every apparatus. If you manage to hit that score in the qualifications for the worlds, you'll probably be qualified for a spot in Montreal. I'm doing only parallel bars and high bar for these world championships. So, I'll have to perform well in the qualifications and manage the score the head coach set.

IG: Now that you have one Olympic Games behind you, what will you need to change or improve in your training, in order to become a leader of the team?

FR: I'll need to keep on pushing myself in training, in order to improve, not only by working hard, but also in working efficiently and smartly. My coach, Jeroen Jacobs, and I started working together four years ago. Since then I improved so fast by doing exactly this. I think, if we continue this training, I'll reach my full potential. I'm not where this will take me, but I'm sure it will result in some amazing competitions and experiences.

IG: Although we have three years till Tokyo, there are already several teams who look capable of pushing for a qualifying spot. What do you suggest so the Dutch team will be sure to earn one of those spots?

FR: As a team we will definitely try to qualify for the Olympics again. We have a lot of potential in our team. And I strongly believe we have enough quality to qualify for the Olympic games in Tokyo as a team.

International Gymnast magazine's recent coverage of Dutch gymnasts includes:
Eythora Thorsdottir chat (May 2017)
"Dutch Master" - Thorsdottir interview (April 2016)
"Marked for Success" - Casimir Schmidt profile (July/August 2014)
"Just Verdict" - Céline van Gerner interview (June/July 2012)
"Ready to Rise for the Netherlands" - Noel van Klaveren profile (June 2013)
"Skilled and Studious" - Epke Zonderland cover story (March 2014)

To order back issues, or subscribe to the print and/or digital edition of International Gymnast magazine, click here.

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