Our 12-strong Team Lëtzebuerg has athletes competing in athletics, cycling, swimming, equestrianism, table tennis, triathlon and archery. (eighth of twelve)
FYI: The so-called “cadre élite” comprises those athletes who have both participated in a certain number of high-level competitions and either achieved, or been close to achieving, the specific standard set to enter the “high performance” category of their sport (distinguished from “mass sport” or “recreational sport”).
The “cadre promotion” includes athletes who have not yet made the “elite” category but have a realistic chance of doing so within the first 6 years upon admission. This is not achieved by meeting specific criteria, but by their general performance as well as participation in high performance international competitions (within respective age categories and 5th and 6th years of performance).
The 28-year-old Sarah De Nutte joins Ni Xia Lian at the Tokyo Olympics in table tennis (and for those who mistake this sport for the disappointingly boring school PE sessions most of us remember, need to watch this – for those who know better, forgive the rest).
De Nutte joined the elite category in 2014 and plays for DT Ettelbruck/ Club Tennis de Table Saint-Quentinois (FRA) and ranks 74th worldwide. De Nutte’s qualification for the Olympics has been a confidence boost for the player, who made it to the last round of 16 twice in the European Championships in Warsaw: “I was able to play freely and without pressure. I could enjoy the game, which in turn allowed me to play better.”
When questioned about the biggest challenge she faced in terms of preparing, De Nutte had this to say: “Preparing in itself wasn’t a massive challenge, but the qualification process was the hard part – and it would have been both with and without Covid-19. Everyone wants to participate and wants to be part of, so it wasn’t easy.”
“Covid-19 made it take longer, but this has been a process that has gone beyond the last 2 years, even if it’s ramped up now. My biggest challenge was to perform consistently well so that I could advance my world ranking. It was a little difficult to train at the beginning of covid-19, and there were less championships to help you prepare, but it started returning to normal lately and there were enough leagues going on to help me improve.”
The athlete also shared how much that she has gained from her profession, and the lessons her sport has taught her: “I have learned a lot about myself actually, like that I’m really determined, and when there’s something I enjoy doing and that I really want to do, then I’ll give 100%. I don’t like doing things carelessly or superficially.
I also learned that I tend to be a person who looks for solutions rather than problems. This could be in a match but also in other situations, like how can we make our sport better. What are other people’s perspectives and how do they think about it? And that’s definitely something I gained through doing this, and the travel that’s associated with it, seeing and experiencing different cultures.”
This isn’t the first time De Nutte has played in Japan. Last time she ranked 15th with her team in the World Championships. And while there won’t be as much socialising or chances to experience other sports, De Nutte remains excited about the Olympics. Her main goal is not just to advance as far as possible within the tournament, she also wants her performance to be memorable: “In the days leading up to a competition I analyse videos, make mental notes and plan my strategy. But this is a pretty a normal thing to do, everyone does it. Otherwise I might listen to podcasts to help centre me and focus on myself before a game.”