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‘Kempi’ with Orange into the last phase: full throttle towards Tokyo

Thursday was a double celebration for Robbert Kemperman. He celebrated his 31st birthday and started the last phase with the Orange towards the supreme moment. The Olympics are now really in sight.

The Orangemen had a week and a half of rest after their European Championships won. Time to recover. To give the freshly acquired memories a place. To give some time to their loved ones, who received little attention during the European Championship bubble. And especially to recharge the battery for this summer’s highlight: Tokyo.

“I just said it to Thierry (Brinkman, ed.): it feels like yesterday that we became champions,” says Kemperman on the terrace of Schaerweijde, where the Dutch national team trained on Thursday afternoon. ‘Those ten hockey-free days passed quickly. You can’t completely let go of what you’re doing. Maybe you don’t want that either.’

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Kemperman after his goal in the final against Germany. Photo: Willem Vernes

Chilling in France

He left for France himself, where he spent a holiday with his girlfriend and former international Sophie Polkamp. Swimming, chilling, eating more extensively and of course finishing his training schedule neatly. ‘Of course you also try to clear your head, to get away from it all for a while. But the longer you rest, the more often you start thinking about it again. Thinking about what’s to come. What the next days look like. Before you know you are training and testing again.’

Of course Kemperman, who is still simply called Kempi at the age of 31, looks back on the European Championship with a good feeling. ‘We wanted to play a good tournament there and become ‘just’ champions. We think you can peak at both times. There are other teams that have seen the European Championship more as a build-up tournament. Somehow that also applies to us. But we also wanted to be so good that we could win the title. After that nice step, everyone feels that even more is possible.’

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In action during the last group match at the European Championship, against Wales. Photo: Willem Vernes

Heat chambers

Zeist is therefore the place to be for Orange in the coming days . But the selection of national coach Max Caldas is not only there to play hockey. People are also already getting used to the sweltering and ultra-humid conditions in which the Netherlands will soon take part during the Games. ‘We do that in heat chambers,’ says Kemperman. ‘These are areas that are made very warm. A kind of sauna. You just can’t sit comfortably, but you have to do something. We do strength exercises there and cycle on exercise bikes. It’s purely about getting your body used to performing at much higher temperatures. There must be regularity in this, so that it will no longer be new in Tokyo.’

After training days in Zeist and Amsterdam, the Orange squad will leave for Madrid on July 6, where a ten-day preparation trip is on the menu. In addition, two exhibition games against Spain are scheduled. ‘We will also train there in the heat of the day’, says Kemperman. ‘Actually, we had wanted to fly to Asia before, but it was uncertain what we were allowed to do there. Soon you will get there and you have to stay in your hotel for ten days. That would be a pity of the time. So we didn’t take that risk.’

I think this was my strongest tournament of the past four yearsRobbert Kemperman about the past European Championship

He takes a look next to his yogurt and sandwich lying untouched in front of him. ‘Ah, we remain flexible, eh. Since the start of the corona time, everything has changed almost daily. I’m just trying to let it get to me. I kind of want to know what the intention is, but other than that I’ll hear about it.’

Kemperman is comfortable in his own skin after his strong European Championship. “I think this was my strongest tournament of the past four years. I was able to add value to every match at this European Championship. For example, I was too often not at the World Cup in India. There I found myself too absent-minded, I left my mark less.’

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Cheering together with Thierry Brinkman after a goal in the group stage of the European Championship against Germany. Photo: Willem Vernes

emotional person

Because at some point you reach an age… ‘Indeed, your qualities are expected to show up in every match. It is not necessarily about taking an action or not. It’s the total package. Scoring, assisting, defending. That provides the flow, which I also felt during the season. You can’t just call that up. It doesn’t work for me to think too much about it and torment myself with it. I’m an emotional person, I’m at my best when I’m relaxed.’

Relax and enjoy the height of summer. ‘This is the most beautiful thing there is’, Kemperman enjoys. ‘All of us in that final phase. Everyone ready for the right moment. Having a good feeling with the group. A few more dots on the i and then it’s time.’

Laughing: ‘But first the heat chamber. And yet maybe see if I can buy a cake for the boys somewhere.’

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