Kira Toussaint – “Ik heb gevochten voor mijn carrière”

Zwemster Kira Toussaint (27) won afgelopen EK vier gouden en één zilveren medaille. Deze komen niet zomaar aanwaaien, want ze werkt er keihard voor. ‘Niet iedereen begrijpt mijn levensstijl.’

“Vandaag heb ik landtraining. Dat houdt in dat ik een warming up doe, vervolgens ga zwemmen en tot slot een krachttraining heb”, vertelt Kira. Het leven als topsporter is leuk, vindt ze. Ze reist veel en ontmoet mensen met dezelfde passie als zij. Toch is ze weinig thuis, waardoor ze belangrijke dingen soms mist. “Mijn echte vrienden begrijpen dat ik me niet altijd kan aanpassen”, zegt ze. “Toen mijn beste vriendin ging trouwen, heeft ze de datum van de bruiloft verplaatst omdat op dat moment het EK zou plaatsvinden. Niet iedereen zou dat doen.” Topsporter ben je niet alleen in het zwembad, maar ook in de bar of in een restaurant. Het leven is strikt, maar er zitten ook veel leuke aspecten aan. 

Kira Toussaint – “Ik heb gevochten voor mijn carrière”

Jeugd

Het leven van een zwemster is Kira met de paplepel ingegoten. Haar moeder Jolanda de Rover is olympisch zwemkampioene en haar vader is bewegingswetenschapper. Pas op latere leeftijd besefte Kira zich dat het bijzonder is dat haar moeder kampioen is geweest op de Olympische Spelen. “Toen ik zes jaar oud was, verbleven we voor de Spelen in Sydney”, vertelt ze. “Midden in de nacht werden we wakker gemaakt om buiten naar het vuurwerk te kijken. Dit heeft me geïnspireerd om mijn dromen achterna te gaan.”

Kira’s moeder was werkzaam in het zwembad in Amstelveen, waar ze als baby vaak mee naartoe genomen werd als er geen oppas beschikbaar was. Ze werd gebruikt als voorbeeld bij het babyzwemmen, waardoor ze van jongs af aan al veel in het water te vinden was. Toen Kira vier jaar oud was, behaalde ze haar C-diploma al. “Ik heb van huis uit meegekregen dat je plezier moet hebben in het water”, zegt Kira. “Die mentaliteit heb ik nog steeds.”

Kira Toussaint vroeger

Toch is het niet altijd van een leien dakje gegaan. Toen de zwemster veertien jaar oud was, begon het ’s ochtends vroeg trainen haar tegen te staan. Haar moeder vond het niet erg: “Ik moest háár ’s ochtends wakker maken als ik wilde trainen in plaats van andersom. Twee weken lang ging ik niet naar de training”, zegt Kira. “Ik ging met mijn moeder zitten en ontdekte dat het lag aan het vroege opstaan.” 

“Ga je je moeder achterna?”, is een vraag die Kira vaak gesteld kreeg. Vervelend, vond ze. “Ik wilde mijn eigen persoon zijn en mijn eigen pad creëren. Olympisch kampioen was te hoog gegrepen”, zegt ze. Van haar moeder kreeg ze mee dat plezier hebben in wat je doet het belangrijkste is. De wereld vergaat namelijk niet als het niet lukt.

School

Het was niet makkelijk om zwemmen te combineren met het dagelijks leven. Kira koos bewust voor een middelbare school die haar topsport steunde omdat ze iedere ochtend twee uur trainde. Vier jaar lang zat ze op het vwo, maar door de drukte van het zwemmen stroomde ze af naar 5 havo. Toen ze haar diploma had ging ze fysiotherapie studeren in Nederland. Ondanks dat ze haar propedeuse gehaald heeft, was het onmogelijk te combineren. “Ik was nooit aanwezig in de lessen of tijdens praktijkuren omdat ik simpelweg niet kon door het zwemmen”, aldus Kira.

Toen ze haar propedeuse behaalde, is Kira meteen naar Florida verhuisd. Met behulp van een studiebeurs kon ze bij het zwemteam. “Het hele leven was zo ingedeeld om school en zwemmen te kunnen combineren. Haalde je slechte cijfers, mocht je niet zwemmen”, zegt de zwemster. Voor haar was het een stok achter de deur waardoor het combineren goed te doen was. De stap om naar Amerika te gaan was groot, vond ze. Op het moment dat ze in een zwemteam met 32 meiden terechtkwam, ontstond er direct een hechte vriendinnengroep. Na twee jaar ging Kira naar de University of Tennessee waar ze in december 2017 afstudeerde als bewegingswetenschapper, net als haar vader. Na haar afstuderen wilde ze het liefst in Amerika blijven om te trainen als zwemster, maar doordat ze geen werkvisum had moest ze terug naar Nederland.

Carrière

“Toen ik vroeger uitlegde dat mijn beroep zwemster was, werd me gevraagd wat voor werk ik dan deed”, vertelt Kira. Veel mensen onderschatten hoeveel je moet trainen. Het kost zoveel energie dat het vrijwel onmogelijk is om een baan te hebben naast het zwemmen. Als topsporter train je elke dag.

Op een wedstrijddag is het erg bepalend hoe je je voelt. “Als ik me goed voel, ben ik zelfverzekerd en kan ik niet wachten tot de wedstrijd begint. Als ik me minder goed voel, ben ik misselijk van de zenuwen”, toch vindt Kira wedstrijdspanning een heerlijk gevoel. “Ik heb er altijd zin in.” Wanneer ze bij het zwembad arriveert, doet ze haar voorbereidingen. Ze heeft een vaste routine waar ze zich altijd aan houdt, daar voelt ze zich rustiger door. “Ik probeer me tijdens een wedstrijd alleen op mezelf te focussen. Ik zie wel waar ik eindig, de uitslag maakt me niet uit.”

In 2018 stortte de wereld van Kira volledig in: een week voor de wereldkampioenschappen ontving ze een brief van de Wereldzwembond waarin stond dat haar dopingtest positief was. “Ik wist dat ik niks gedaan had, maar schaamde me enorm”, legt de zwemster uit. Vier maanden later bleek dat er een fout was gemaakt in het lab: een vals-positieve test. “In al die maanden heb ik niet mogen zwemmen, waardoor ik me besefte hoe leuk ik het vond”, zegt ze. “Ik heb gevochten voor mijn carrière, toen ik weer mocht ging het allemaal in een stijgende lijn.” Kira ziet het als een moment dat ze nodig had, anders zou ze niet zijn waar ze nu is. “Een jaar na de brief werd ik Europees kampioen zwemmen. Toen ik op het podium stond en het Wilhelmus werd gedraaid, begon ik keihard te janken”, vertelt Kira. “De doping-nachtmerrie was afgesloten en ik kon verder. Ik was zo trots.” In de toekomst wil Kira een olympische medaille winnen. Ze is al eens vierde geworden op het WK, maar een medaille zou de hoofdprijs zijn.   

Kira Toussaint Olympische spelen

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