“That award was the cherry on the pie of a good season,” tells Marissa, who has turned in some excellent performances over the past two years in her discipline, the 800 meters. Both this year and last she came third at the national championships and a few months ago she ran the Dutch student record. And yet she has only been doing athletics for four years. “I first played hockey, but I stopped when I dislocated my kneecap. In athletics you run in a straight line, I only need to be careful on the bends.” In the summer she hopes to take part in the Universiade. “An ambitious goal, I'll have to run two seconds under my PB.”
Pulling questions from our top hat at a distance isn't easy, but the Cursor team lent her a helping hand, as fairly as possible. And so we learn that the five-year-old Marissa had a crush on Jan Smit and that she wouldn't find bungee jumping frightening, but that ladybugs scare the daylights out of her.
From which mistake have you learned the most?
“I don't think of it as a 'mistake' but I learned a lot from retaking the school year 6-VWO. Especially about myself; I became more independent and was better able to make decisions. Afterwards I was much more motivated to start studying at university. As a rule, I think of my mistakes not as mistakes but as learning opportunities. I train in Eindhoven at Asterix and our trainer, Ton van Hoesel, thinks it is really important that we also have fun. That fits neatly with my own approach to my sport.”
Imagine you are going back to basics, and can keep only one device. Which one would you choose?
“I know it's boring but I have to say my telephone. You can do everything with it; from watching Netflix to staying in touch with everyone. I use my telephone quite a lot, but I could manage without it. Even though it would take some getting used to and I would definitely miss it. It strikes me that the Finns are on their phones a lot less than the Dutch. They are more conscious of nature, spend more time outdoors. I'm outdoors a lot myself here; it's unavoidable given that I train every day, but that hasn't changed my telephone use. I have an Asus, a less well-known brand. It's not that important to me. It was good value for money and I wanted a fun camera.”
Who was your first great love?
(Laughs. Laughs again, louder.) “That was Jan Smit. I was about five or six and I'd play his CD and start singing along and dancing to his songs. It didn't go any further than that, mind you. I didn't have a comforter with his picture on it or anything like that. And now I'm not into Dutch music at all.
My first boyfriend was someone at high school, in Roosendaal. I was fifteen. Do I still see him? No, not anymore.” Joking: “It seems my first loves are safely in the past. For nearly four years I've been in a relationship with Koen van der Meijden. He's coming to Finland in December and we're going to Lapland together.”
Do you believe in luck or is it all a choice?
“I think it's a bit of both. You have to be lucky as far as the things you come across in life, but it also depends a great deal on your own attitude. You shouldn't have overly high expectations, then you won't be too disappointed. I try not to be too demanding, although that doesn't apply to my sporting achievements, but I've realized that I look at athletics differently because it's not something I've being doing since childhood. I already know there's more to life than sport, like studying and doing fun things with friends. There's certainly an element of luck involved in running. Preferably, you'd be put in a heat with people who run at exactly the same speed as you do. But it's not your choice which heat you're in.”
What is your greatest fear?
“I am scared of ladybugs. I don't know why, they're harmless. Some people are scared of spiders, I happen to feel that way about other small creatures. I've always found them scary, and whether it's just one or more it makes no difference. I don't kill them, poor things, but if they are indoors they have to be put out the window. And yes, I need someone to help me with that. If I am in a large group and I see them, I try to walk away without anyone noticing. After all, most people do find it a bit strange. I haven't yet seen any here in Finland.
By nature, I'm not easily frightened - in general, I mean. I don't go looking for extreme activities, but I am an adventurous spirit. Here, we go away every weekend with a nice group of friends, Dutch, Germans and Spaniards. We've been climbing in the mountains, we've been canoeing and we've visited Russia. I'd be keen to go bungee jumping some day.”