When I asked Jiske Griffioen for her top advice on how the get the most out of yourself, she answered: “Have faith in your own path, everybody does it in their own special way.”
Jiske is the best example of that advice. During her workshop “Inspiration from sport” during the business women event of Superwomen in 2018, she shared her own personal story and her path to 2 golden medals at the Paralympic Games. With her story Jiske Griffioen proves she was right. Nevertheless setbacks, difficulties and side tours, she reached her top: the gold medal winner at the Paralympic Games.
The sportfans only see the gold shimmering in the fist of the winning sportswoman. But only she and her team know how long the road to this victory was. As Jiske is saying: “topsport is a scene of extremes. Moments of euphoria and of total devastation.” During her workshop it became clear to the audience that her tennis career was a mix of both.
Jiske narrates briefly about Spina Bifida, a birth defect which landed her at a very young age in a wheelchair. That did not keep her from doing sports. “My parents were both gym teachers and knew how important sports are for children. They have always encouraged me to do sports.” After having tried several sports she tried wheelchair tennis. And that was a perfect match.
Not before long she set herself a goal: winning the gold medal at the Paralympic Games. Supported by her parents, she worked real hard to achieve her goal. At the first two Paralympic Games, 2004 Athens and 2008 Berlin, she did not get very far. Quite the opposite actually, she got discouraged and even briefly considered to stop playing. Self-criticism combined with criticism of outsiders was hard to hear. “There are always people who say you won’t make it. Which is hard to hear but you have to realize these are people who are outsiders, so they really cannot know.” Jiske says firmly.
A new team and new success for Jiske Griffioen
Fortunately Jiske to not quit after the Paralympic Games in 2008. Training with a new team brought back the joy of playing at top level. Her goals became clear again: long term successes were more important. And earlier disappointments had to make room for an iron will. In 2012 Jiske got the first reward for all her hard work; a bronze medal at the Paralympic Games in London. After another 4 years of hard work, and working with innovative methods and materials she did even better. Jiske Griffioen reached her goals; gold in the singel and double wheelchair tennis at the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Go for it and do not give up
After I listened to her at the workshop, I asked Jiske for that one quality that makes her a Superwoman. “Daring to go for it.” she answered. “Really go all in to reach your goals or dreams. That’s most important to me. Actually achieving your goal is not important.” she says.”It is the drive to go for it, since you never know you will actually get there. And even when you do not get there, you are a Superwoman to me. At least you tried.”
Passion has always been an important factor to Jiske Griffioen. Not giving up is part of that. “In the beginning my motivation might have been wrong. Something like: I am in a wheelchair but I can still perform and you should not feel sorry for people in wheelchairs.” she explains. “In the top I held on to never giving up and to keep on going. Being handicapped was not part of that. It is important to not give up easily, not in spots but not in real life either. In normal life you encounter stuff which you have to push through.”
Keeping this determination in mind it should not come as a surprise to you Rafael Nadal is Jiske’s role model. “That passion for tennis and the way he’s on the court is beautiful to see. He even became the reason to go on sometimes. “Sometime I thought to myself; Do not give up in this match, Nadal wouldn’t either.”
“Not everybody has to become a top sportswoman although I think sports are good for everybody.” To Jiske sports are more than just staying fit. Spirts can also help to maintain social contacts an it teaches children to win, to lose and how to cope with disappointments.“It does not matter if it is a teamsport or solo sport. Especially in the beginning. Although a teamsport makes it easier to cope with losing and disappointments. When playing solo you have no one to blame but yourself so you learn more. You have to learn to trust yourself and on solving problems yourself. That makes a victory extra special.” Beautiful insights from gold metal winner Jiske Griffioen.
What will the future bring?
Jiske has stopped playing wheelchair tennis at top level. Her new goal for the future is not certain yet. Sports will of course play a big role in her life. “I would love to work in sports media, but I am not sure how or what. I hope I will meet some people that can help me with that.” It would not surprise me to see Jiske Griffioen in media, maybe on the production side of a sports program. In the meanwhile we can enjoy her as in inspirational speaker. More information at: Jiskegriffioen.com