From Peru to Tilburg and from Argentina to Paris: Chiarella is preparing for the Olympic Games
Combining studies or work with a top-level sports career: the Tilburg University community boasts a lot of top sports talent. In The Road to Paris, we share stories of these talents on their journey to the Olympic Games in 2024. Today the story of our Peruvian student Florencia Chiarella Salas (20). She won the 2021 Youth Sailing World Championships. In 2022, she came in fifth in the under-21 Youth World Championships.
It is ten o’clock in the morning in Argentina and two in the afternoon in Tilburg as we talk to Florencia. She is at training camp to prepare for qualification for the Olympic Games. “Here I feel one with nature; I sail through storms and rain, among dolphins and sea lions,” Florencia beams. “In my sailing boat, I can clear my head and forget about the homework that needs to be done as well. I am incredibly happy that sailing allows me to live my life in this way.”
Florencia has worked very hard to be where she is now. She started sailing in an Optimist – a small, single-handed sailing dinghy for children – when she was eight years old. She now has an impressive number of accomplishments to her name. In 2017, aged 13, she became the first girl ever to win the Optimist South American Championship. In 2021, she won the ISAF World Championship (ILCA 6). And during the Pan-American Games in 2023, she earned her country, Peru, a ticket to the Olympic Games in Paris. Florencia’s next step is going head to head with several fellow Peruvian athletes to secure that coveted qualification for the upcoming Olympics.
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Photo's: Capizzano Photography
January 11 was circled in her appointment book, because that was the day that qualification will be decided during the ILCA 6 World Championships. This event has a qualification system to determine who will represent Peru at the Olympic Games. Florencia is now in Mar del Plata in Argentina to prepare for the tournament. “The days are quite intensive,” says Florencia. “We begin with a briefing and a warming-up and then sail to three or four hours a day. After lunch, there is another briefing and we analyse the videos of our sailing. Then I usually go to the gym, because sailing required a lot of endurance and muscular strength: in your legs, abdomen, lower back, and upper and forearms. In addition, I row and ride my bike to improve my breathing efficiency. And I work on my mindset with a sports psychologist.”
From Peru to Tilburg
In 2022, Florencia left Peru for Tilburg for her studies. She is now in the second year of her Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation Bachelor’s program. Her choice to study in Europe is linked to her sports career: “Sailing is very popular here. It seemed like a good opportunity to take my sports career to a higher level. The best sailors are from the Netherlands, Marit Bouwmeester among them. Moreover, the races are generally better organized than in Peru. And the weather conditions are more challenging: more waves and a lot of wind. When I had opted for the Netherlands, I was in doubt whether to study in Amsterdam or Tilburg. The compact and connected Tilburg campus appealed to me very much. I really like it here.”
I try to prioritize differently in different periods
Sailing and studying
“I am now spending a lot of time sailing. But I should also be studying. Sometimes it is difficult to combine the two,” Florencia continues. “I do my homework in the morning or evening and try to keep up as best I can. When I am back in the Netherlands, I will do my best to catch up on classes missed. A lot of the teaching materials are available online fortunately.”
From junior to adult athlete
Although Florencia is only twenty years old, she has already learned a lot as part of her sports career. “In the past few years, I participated at the junior level. Now I am an adult, I compete with experienced sailors. That was quite difficult in the beginning because you compare yourself to ladies who have ten years more experience. And I was also quite anxious in the beginning. But I can deal with that much better now.”
Florencia concludes with some advice: “It can be tough, juggling tasks. It can give you a lot of stress. I try to prioritize differently in different periods. At the moment, I’m focusing totally on my sports. After competition time, sport takes a backseat and my studies and social activities take center stage again.”
Results of ILCA 6 senior World Championships
Florencia Chiarelle Salas qualified directly for the Olympic Games in Paris during the ILCA 6 World Senior Championships on january 11, 2023.
Date of publication: 16 January 2024