Cecil M. Colwin
Swimming in the Canadian Open, at the Laval University
Pool in Sainte Foy, November 29 to December 1. Carla made an impressive
Canadian debut by winning the 400 and 800 freestyles in 4:08.96 and 8:42.09
Carla swam for the Netherlands team at the Centenary
Olympic Games in Atlanta, where she finished sixth in the 400 freestyle
(4:10.06), and seventh in the 800 (8:40.43).
Carla, who has swum since she was eight years old,
made the national team at age 14. But she was destined to work hard for
another eight years before she first represented Holland in international
competition at the 1993 European Championships in Sheffield, England, where
she swam in the 400 freestyle and 4 x 200 freestyle relay.
Carla first met Coach Andrew Cole in December 1995
at the British Winter Challenge Meet.
Carla says she came to Canada because she wanted
to change both her training environment, and the way she was training. "I
was looking for a place outside the Netherlands to combine my swimming career
with exploring the world, and Andrew Cole gave me the opportunity. He invited
me to come over to Canada, if I wanted to have another place to swim."
"This was before the Olympics. We had met
each other briefly in Sheffield last year, and he mentioned that I could
come over to train with him. But, at that time, I didn't have the finances
to do it, and when Speedo International became my sponsor, I knew that I
could afford to go over to Canada. And that was when I asked him if I was
still invited to come over."
Carla had trained under Marianne Heemskerk for
three years, and this was a successful association until Carla began to
feel that the rapport between them "was no longer what it had been
Carla said, "At the beginning, I thought that
I could learn a lot from her, but, after a while, she couldn't help me any
further, and that was when I decided to leave."
Carla said she trained herself during the six months
prior to the Games, but also "had a lot of competitions at training
camps with the national team, where I came under Rene Dekker, the national
head coach. So I wasn't quite `coachless' !"
Carla recorded her best times in the Atlanta Olympics.
"I was quite pleased, considering what I had been through. This has
made me more enthusiastic and motivated than ever. I see that I can improve
I asked Coach Cole whether he had coached Carla
in Atlanta, and he replied "Not really. I tried to remove myself as
much as possible because she was being coached by Rene."
Carla said "We had contact several times,
and he gave me some advice. But he wasn't coaching me."
Carla Geurts graduated in Movement Science (Kinesiology)
from the University of Amsterdam. "After that, I did research for the
Nederlands Olympic Committee on the type of quality sports centres needed
for weight training, especially weight training for Olympic athletes.
"They wanted to set up a network of sports
fitness training centres for Olympic athletes, where they could do weights,
and have the quality of their work tested."
Asked her view on training centres, Carla said
"I think a good coach is more important than swimming in a good sports
centre. I think you should find a coach with whom you can work together.
This is more important than having the facilities.
"Swimmers should be independent individuals.
They should be internally motivated, and should know what they need. A coach
can do a lot, but something has to come from the swimmer."
Carla said that her mother, Lotti Geurts, was a
world champion master swimmer in several events. "She had swum all
her life, but only got into the water about three times a week. She really
liked it. When I was fifteen, I swam in Eindhoven, and my mother brought
me to the pool, and had to wait for me to finish my training. So she dived
into the water, and swam with the team. Someone asked her why she didn't
do some master swimming, and so she started competition swimming. She was
51 when she started ten years ago, and she's still going strong, and swam
in the World Masters Championships two years ago."
Carla said her national federation had sent her
FINA forms requesting details of where she would be training. "I was
pretty late when I left for Canada, and so I faxed them directly to FINA
in Lausanne. Two weeks later they were here to test me."
Carla said she was tested by a woman from Saint
John, New Brunswick, about one hour away.
Coach Andrew Cole said that she was tested by a
representative of the CIAU (the governing body for Canadian collegiate sports).
Cole said, "For any testing that is done in this area, FINA approaches
her or the Canadian Association for Drug Free Sport."
Asked how many times she had been tested in Holland,
Carla said: "Last year, I was tested twice at home, twice in Rio, during
the World Championships, and I was tested during a training camp we had
in Granada, Spain, and I was tested in Atlanta, after the 800."
I asked Carla, "So you think that FINA are pretty active with their testing...?"
She laughed and said, "If they do that to
all the swimmers, well then I think they're doing a good job!"
I said, "Penny Heyns told me she had been
tested four times. She had recently returned from a visit to South Africa,
and no sooner got back to Nebraska they were on her door step to test her.
Penny said she's very pleased she has been tested so often, because she
knows she's clean, and she hopes they're testing everybody.
Carla said, " I think that's the way to make
sure that swimming stays clean from drugs and doping. It's a good way, and
I like to work with them."
I asked her whether the Dutch swimmers talked a lot about the drug problem.
"No. They don't talk about it a lot. I mean
you can't prove anything, and as soon as something is proved, you say, well,
maybe you thought that you had some suspicion, like when the Chinese girls
were tested and found positive. Well, we were suspecting that they were
positive. I'm just glad that they got caught, because swimming should be
I asked whether there had been any other testing at the University of New Brunswick that she knew about. "Yes. The third week of September they showed up again...the same woman from St John. She showed up at workout, and, after workout, she randomly picked swimmers, five girls, and they got tested. They were all negative."
Carla Geurts left Canada on December 3 to compete in the Netherlands Championships in Utrecht, and the European Short Course Championships in Rostock, Germany, December 13 to 15,where she won the 800 freestyle title in 8:34.66, came second in the 400 (4:09.94), and placed third in the 200 (1:59.16).
Before leaving , she said, "After that, I will have two weeks off, and I will celebrate Christmas with my family. Then I take off for an altitude training camp at Font Romeu, in the south of France, with the Dutch National Team. I will be back in Canada at the end of January.
"Certainly, I'll carry on until the World Championships in January, 1998. Maybe I'll continue until Sydney 2000.