In the last week before the Olympic Games, NU.nl publishes an extensive daily interview with a Dutch Olympian.

In the fourth episode BMX sisters Laura (27) and Merel (23) Smulders, who are completely different but have been doing everything together for years.

"By the book, our combination of personalities wouldn't work."

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It is highly doubtful that the Smulders family would have sent two BMX riders to Tokyo if the Games had been held in the summer of 2020 as planned.

Merel suffered a severe concussion in January last year during a fall in Australia, an injury that can only heal with a lot of rest.

"But Merel immediately wanted to do way too much, as usual," says Laura, while sitting next to her younger sister in the canteen of FCV Wycross, the BMX association in their hometown of Wijchen.

"The day after her fall she wanted to go to the beach with me. I said: 'You are completely crazy, you have to stay in bed.'

But you can't."

"That's right," Merel replies.

"But you didn't just go to a beach, did you. The Gold Coast, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. And you would be gone from early in the morning until late at night and I would have had to be alone all that time stay at the hotel."

Laura: "

Point taken

. But at home I just had to slow down Merel all the time. She had to do nothing, sleep a lot and watch as little screens as possible."

Merel: "The physiotherapist gave me a schedule that I had to stick to. I really thought: this is not possible, it takes way too long."

Laura: "I was the very annoying handbrake, haha. I said all the time: I'm just the asshole."

Merel: "Yes, that was a tough period."

Roll of honor Laura Smulders (supercross)

  • Olympics: Bronze in 2012, 7th in 2016

  • World Cup: gold in 2018, silver in 2019, bronze in 2014

  • European Championship: gold in 2014, 2017, 2018 and 2019, bronze in 2014

Roll of honor Merel Smulders (supercross)

  • World Cup: silver in 2018

Laura Smulders (left) and Merel Smulders in the canteen of their BMX club.

Laura Smulders (left) and Merel Smulders in the canteen of their BMX club.

Photo: Daan de Ridder

'It works, so you don't have to change it'

Laura and Merel Smulders have been doing practically everything together for four years now.

They are roommates, training partners and travel to all the big games together.

It is a success, culminating in the 2018 World Cup. Laura won gold in Baku and Merel stood next to her on the podium with silver.

"Occasionally it can be very intense that we see each other all the time every day," Laura laughs.

"But sometimes it's very tasty."

When is it intense?

Laura: "We are very different. That can work very well, but we also clash sometimes and then we argue. But we are good at expressing that again and not letting it go. the weather fine."

“Our personalities couldn't be further apart.”

Laura Smulders, BMX star

Merel: "How do they always say that?

Opposites attract

. I don't think there are many people who can live together in this way and play sports together at such a high level."

Are you really polar opposites?

In unison: "Yes."

Laura: "We both did the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator with sports psychologist Rico Schuijers, a character test. Merel a few years later than me and when she came home with her results, we compared our results. What turned out? According to the booklet, our combination of personalities doesn't work. You can't be further apart than us on this test."

Merel: "I'm extroverted, Laura is introverted. I'm very social, always want to do everything, Laura doesn't. I pronounce things quickly, while Laura is bogged down. Ha, this goes a bit deep."

Laura: "But it works for us, in one way or another. And then you shouldn't change anything about it. I think we complement each other well. I occasionally say that Merel should take it easy and don't have to take too much hay on her fork and she sometimes tells me that we should get out of the house sometime, be social."

Have you ever asked each other whether it would be better sportingly not to do everything together?

Merel: "No, although I will live on my own in Nijmegen after the Games. Not because the current situation no longer works, but because I would like to have my own place."

"I'm always the little sister now. That's often very nice, but Laura is also a bit my mother and that is sometimes less. And maybe our relationships will get even better if we don't always sit on each other's lips. But I I also immediately said that I will visit Laura at least twice a week, because I don't like being alone."

Laura Smulders won a surprising bronze at the 2012 London Olympics as an eighteen-year-old.

Laura Smulders won a surprising bronze at the 2012 London Olympics as an eighteen-year-old.

Photo: ANP

'When I heard Merel scream, I knew she had won silver'

BMX has always been a family affair for the Smulders.

That started twenty years ago at FCV Wycross and soon the whole family - father Frank, mother Wilma and children Koen, Laura and Merel - traveled all over Europe weekend after weekend in a camper or caravan for competitions.

"It felt more like a vacation," says Laura.

"A BMX campsite is a household name in our world. Next to the track was a simple grass field and everyone was camping there. It was always a lot of fun."

You really always went with the five of you?

Laura.

"Our parents have always been there, and still are when it is possible to drive. Mum then sits comfortably by the camper in the sun reading a book - she finds it too exciting to watch - and dad hangs out all weekend the team manager."

Merel: "I can't imagine that daddy will ever not be there of his own free will. I just don't see that."

The highlight for the family is the 2018 World Cup, when you finished first and second.

What do you remember most about that day?

Merel: "The finish. I hugged Laura, daddy stood there immediately. The rest is a bit of a dream, it all went so fast."

Laura: "I was in the lead and heard several bicycles clatter against the ground behind me. I could not see what was happening, so I thought: I hope Merel is not there. Only after I had crossed the finish line and Merel screamed, I knew she had finished second. Somehow I recognized the sound. Ha, a high-pitched scream doesn't happen often."

Laura Smulders (left) drives right behind her sister Merel Smulders.

Laura Smulders (left) drives right behind her sister Merel Smulders.

Photo: ANP

During that World Cup final you thought for a moment about Merel and how she would be.

Do you sometimes worry about two people during a race?

Laura: "Yes, and that's actually not fun at all. This sounds silly, but it would be easier if Merel weren't there. For my own performance, it's best to switch off everything around me and I succeed not always."

"In May, for example, at the World Cup in Verona, I was stressed all week for Merel, because she could qualify for the Games there. I didn't cycle like I normally cycle, it cost me a lot of energy. On Saturday I fell in. the final, but luckily Merel came in second and that was enough for her. A day later I rode a lot more freely."

What was that moment like when you knew you were going to Tokyo together?

Merel: "Great. I remember very well that we were eating an ice cream that Saturday evening and I suddenly felt a wave of emotion when a friend sent me an article in which my qualification was the news. I thought: wow, we have it. done it anyway."

Laura: "Now that we are going to the Games together, the tone will no longer be that Laura and her sister participate. Merel really belongs, she has proven that she belongs to the world top. So we really go to Tokyo as sisters."

See also: Van der Breggen: 'If cycling were really everything for me, I wouldn't stop'

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