Dutch thrower trades national team ties for a master's degree

Graduate student Jorinde van Klinken decided to move to Arizona to pursue both graduate school and continue competing

ASU track and field graduate student Jorinde van Klinken always knew she wanted to go to college, but, to her, competing in Europe and being a full-time student would be nearly impossible.

In the Netherlands, it is not common for athletes to compete while also attending school, according to van Klinken. 

"Everyone basically tells you not to combine the two," van Klinken said. "Most people would just go all-in on sports or go all-in on academics, so you give up part of your social life to do both."

Van Klinken never planned on coming to the United States, but she realized how important academics were to her and always felt like the "odd one out" for pursuing academics full time while competing.

Van Klinken had already obtained her undergraduate degree at age 20 while competing for the Dutch national team and wanted to obtain her master's degree, something that would be "undoable" in Europe. 

"If I wanted to combine a full-time athletic career and academics it would've been extremely hard," van Klinken said. 

Van Klinken believed that if she came to the U.S., the "competitiveness and the high level of other athletes along with the sports culture" would make for a better learning environment, while also being able to focus on academics. 

Van Klinken got in touch with former ASU thrower and Olympian Ryan Whiting at a world championship competition, who introduced her to ASU track and field assistant coach Brian Blutreich. 

"She was looking to come over here as a pro and work with some of the coaches here," Blutreich said. "After some talking and deciding to get that graduate degree, she really wanted to learn the rotational throw, something I know very well, so we worked to get her here."

It was after she visited ASU and met Blutreich in person that the process to get van Klinken to the U.S. began. However, once she got into the University and earned a scholarship, she decided to defer the offer for half a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Because of the circumstances it was easier for me to train back home," van Klinken said. "More was open at the time, and I could train with my little sister in our shelter, weightlifting at least."

Van Klinken competed internationally for the Netherlands in the shot put, discus throw, hammer throw and long jump before arriving at ASU. 

Van Klinken represented the Netherlands at the World U20 Championships in Grosseto, Italy in 2017, earning second place in the shot put, throwing a distance of 16.89 meters. 

She also competed in the European Throwing Cup in Šamorín, Slovakia in 2019, securing first place in the competition, throwing for a distance of 16.38 meters and the European U20 Championships in Borås, Sweden where she also won the competition, throwing for a distance of 17.39 meters. 

The feeling of representing her home country is "one that is hard to describe," van Klinken said. 

Van Klinken is currently ranked 36th in the world for the discus throw and 39th in the world for shot put.

She credits her father for "taking her to her first throws coach when I was 11" and her high school throws coach for the success she has been able to have in her career.

"If I hadn't gone to my throws coach in high school for training, I don't think I would be a thrower or this good of a thrower right now," van Klinken said. "I really owe them everything." 

Van Klinken arrived at just ASU six weeks ago and has already made a huge impact on the team. 

"I think she's ranked fourth or fifth nationally right now," Blutreich said. "For coming in and doing that right away after maybe a month of training is really good."

However, van Klinken is still learning "how the system works" in addition to working on the rotational shot put with coach Blutreich. 

"I get new technical clues every day from (coach Blutreich) and my technical skills have improved way faster than they normally do," van Klinken said. "I'm already starting to get them right even though I've only been here for maybe six weeks."

Van Klinken's main goal for this year is to qualify for the Olympic Games in Tokyo and metal in both the shot put and discus throw.

"We're both driven and we work hard," ASU teammate and freshman thrower Mya Lesnar said. "We practice every day with each other and have that support system as well as being on the same page as each other with the common goal of the Olympics."

For now, van Klinken is working toward becoming NCAA champion in either the shot put or discus throw in her first season of eligibility. 

"I hope I can become one of the top throwers in the world in both events," van Klinken said. "One of the things I always say is that, through sports, you can experience things that you can't experience any other way."


Reach the reporter at lhertz@asu.edu and follow @laurenrachell_ on Twitter. 

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