Ferry Weertman might not be one of the most famous and recognisable swimmers just yet but he certainly is making a big splash in the open water competitions.
At just 24, the Dutchman has already been crowned European champion as well as winning silver at the World Championships in Russia two years ago.
But his best achievement came last August when he out-touched two-time world champion Spyridon Gianniotis in the 10km race to stand top of the podium with Olympic gold in Rio.
Not bad for someone who only made his international debut five years ago. We caught up with him after he won silver in the Abu Dhabi leg of the FINA 10km Marathon Swimming World Cup.
It’s been seven months since you won gold medal at the Rio Olympic Games. How do you look back at the competition and the achievement itself ?
To be honest winning in Rio was a dream come true. It was something that I was working on for the last four years as it was one of those goals that I wanted to achieve since I started swimming.
It was simply amazing and it was a great event to be part of and went back home with memories I’ll cherish.
How much has your life changed since then?
Obviously with the Olympic Games being so big, it has had a big effect on me. Now everyone is asking for photos and autographs which is very nice.
At first it was a little bit weird but it’s good to see that people are looking up to you as their idol, which is a bit strange as I was the one who was idolising somebody else.
The Abu Dhabi race was your first competitive duel in the water since your Rio heroics, how pleasing is it to begin the 2017 season strongly?
My performance was very encouraging and although I didn’t win, to come second in a competitive race was fantastic. It sets me well for the World Championships in Hungary and that is something I want to win.
I finished second in the previous edition but to get gold there is something I have my sights on for this season.
The Netherlands have a vast history of producing some outstanding swimmers with Pieter van den Hoogenband being one. In Rio, Sharon van Rouwendaal also claimed the women’s 10km gold for the country so how big is the sport in Holland?
Without doubt, football is the biggest sport in the country but swimming is quickly growing. The success we had in Brazil has only raised the profile of the sport in attracting more people to take up the sport.
Four years ago, there were only two long distance swimmers but now there’s a team of six competitive ones so it shows the sport is on the up. With more competition, that in itself gets the best out of me because I enjoy those types of challenges.
You’re still in your early 20s but is there anything you want to achieve before you retire?
My main target is to win the 10km gold at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. To become the first person to win two consecutive golds in Olympic Games over the same distance would be an extraordinary feeling but there’s still a long way to go.
How did you get into swimmer and what is your training regime?
My mum used to take me to baby swimming classes and that’s where I got the feeling to being in a pool from early on. In terms of my training, I train 10 sessions a week which is around 30 hours in total per week.
I usually swim around 75 to 90km a week which is normal.
Who was your favourite swimmer growing up?
It was Maarten Van Der Weijden. He won the 2008 Olympic Games and was diagnosed with leukemia. But once he got the all-clear he continued swimming and that was very inspiring for me.
You also got the chance to meet Michael Phelps last year…
Yes, he’s a great swimmer who has won so many Olympic medals. It certainly won’t be possible for me to achieve as much as he has since there is only one 10km event in Olympic Games.
It was great to meet him. I’ve seen him so many times on TV and to see him in real life was a dream.