Julie Beurskens: Dutch Judo sensation is ready to take on the world

Julie Beurskens will defend her European title in front of a home crowd in September
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Published on Jan 24, 2023, 11:29:44 AM

If there was ever any doubt about the Dutch being sober people by nature, then I would like to introduce you to Julie Beurskens. Brand new reigning European champion in judo among the juniors, but still sobriety itself. She will defend her title in September this year in front of her own audience, because the Netherlands has the honor of organizing the next edition of the European Championship judo in The Hague.

Warrior Code had the opportunity to speak with Julie at length last week after she had just returned from a training internship in Spain. Something that the Dutch judo association organizes a few times a year for their judokas, with the aim of exposing them to other training experiences and techniques. In turn, the Dutch judo association also invites the world to Papendal, where the judo association is located, to come and train with the Dutch. It is also a time for Julie to take a break with her fellow judo students and gain new inspiration. What also helped was that the final destination was Valencia and therefore a very nice change from the gray Netherlands.

What is it like to be able to train with other nationalities?

“At Papendal nothing is left to chance during training, while in Spain I think the Mediterranean temperament is perhaps more visible: more improvisation and more variety. There is also significantly more attention for ground judo, something that she would like to see more of in the training sessions in the Netherlands.”

The year 2023 has arrived, the year of the title defence. What do the months between now and September look like for you?

“I still have a number of training internships, but above all it is about putting in the hours. I will participate in a number of junior cups where you must and can also qualify for the major tournaments. It's also a good time to see your opponents in action so you know where you stand.”

Julie is only a second year junior and therefore immediately managed to seize the title in her first year. An exceptional achievement.

How do you look back on that achievement?

“With a super feeling of course. I went into that tournament with no expectations and to leave with the top prize is amazing. What makes it even more special for me is that I managed to beat the current world champion on my way to the European title. It is a confirmation for me that I am ready to compete with the world top.”

Take us back to the tournament. What was the moment you really started to believe in the title?

“I got through the first two games normally. Then I had to play against the world champion in the quarterfinals, which is quite early in the draw, and I knew; it was make or break. Then I beat her and then I thought for a moment, okay if I can beat her, what else is in the box?"

That optimism must also come with some nerves. What do you do to control it?

“I can suppress my nerves pretty well and I know that I perform better when I'm just that little bit tense. Then I'm sharp. Go through the plan in my head and go into the race with confidence.”

Are there specific rituals you go through before the competition?

“Not really, just that I consciously try not to listen to music, that gets stuck in my head and actually only gets in the way of my concentration. What I do consciously do is when I step onto the mat, I consciously stamp my feet into the mat. Truly a moment to become one with the mat and the moment when I shut myself off from everything that is going on around me.”

As proud as a peacock: Burskens showing off her gold medal

Are there any other sports besides judo that you are involved in?

"I'm doing a study at the university of applied sciences and have many hobbies beyond that, otherwise I would go crazy. Think of climbing, jumping on a trampoline, free running and mountain biking. All things I like to do when I have time. I've tried meditation once, but it wasn't really that serious. We do receive a lot of guidance and access to workshops that deal with voltage, nutrition, etc."

Those are not the riskiest hobbies. How do your coaches view this?

"They've definitely become more interested in the kind of risks I take since I've been interning at Papendal. Before this I probably did all kinds of things that could have kept my coaches awake! Now I'm a little more careful. For example, when I go mountain biking I go a little softer through the corners. I think if you get the chance to engage in other sports that is good for your mental health and also your general motor skills. For example, free running has taught me to keep thinking calmly when I'm hanging in the middle of the air, this helps me in judo, for example, when trying to knock over my opponent. My coordination is much better."

Let's go back to your upcoming title defense in September in front of your own audience. How special is that?

“Very special, of course, to be able to do that on our own soil, especially because there will be so many spectators. Extra motivation and extra atmosphere.”

Is that different from normal?

“To be honest, the awareness of judo is currently moderate in the Netherlands. Much more attention is paid to MMA and kickboxing, for example. Of course I would like to see more people take an interest in judo. Not because we will have more people at competitions, but because that will benefit the level of the sport across the board. The difference was clear when we were on a training camp in France, for example.”

Looking ahead, what is the final goal that Julie Beurskens is working towards? Gold at the Olympics?

“I'm not going to fixate on one thing. So to say now that gold at the Olympics is my ultimate goal is not true. There is so much to achieve in this sport and I think it is not healthy to hang your entire career on a specific goal. Imagine you fail? What then? At first I think it would be great to join the seniors and hopefully do well there. We'll see what follows. If there are medals to be won and success at the Olympics, I am certainly open to that.”

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