Local Physical Therapist and Successful Swimmer Says Setting Goals is Key for Young Athletes


Nettie van Duursen

Stefan is pictured standing with his two brothers, Jeroen and Ivor, of whom he is the oldest. All three brothers competed in sports from a young age and pushed each other to the highest levels they could. Jeroen van Duursen was a marathon athlete.

Ian van Duursen, staff writer

Growing up in the Netherlands presented many opportunities and challenges for local resident Stefan van Duursen. A swimmer from a young age and the dedication of thousands of hours to his craft, formed van Duursen to be the man he is today. Now a successful physical therapist clinic owner in Denver, Colorado, van Duursen shares some of his past in the sport of swimming. 

Question: What first interested you in swimming?

Answer: Any child in the Netherlands learns to swim at a very young age while in grade school. It is a federal mandate! This triggered my interest in taking it to the competitive level.


Question: How old were you when you realized you had potential in the sport, and how did you find this out?

Answer: I was 4 years old. My swim instructor told my parents that he saw “some potential.” 


Question: What are the biggest difficulties in a sport like swimming?

Answer: It requires many, many hours of training every day, 4 to 6 hours.


Question: How did you choose to accomplish your goals?

Answer: That actually happened without much consideration. My approach was always to maximize my potential. As long as I knew I did the best I could, the goal was achieved.


Question: What was the most challenging experience you had with swimming?

Answer: That sounds odd, but the most challenging was to not be able to train because of having the flu or something. Why? My competitor was training…not me.


Question: What was the highest level you reached in the sport, and how was this different from different levels in which you competed?

Answer: I competed at the sub top level in the Netherlands, meaning top five. When I reached that level I realized I was physically not strong and tall enough to reach the top three.


Question: What was the most satisfactory part of swimming?

Answer: It taught me discipline. A tool that has helped me to reach goals later on in life.

Despite a recession and a worldwide pandemic, van Duursen’s clinic still thrives. (Colorado Spine Therapy LLC)

Question: How did swimming form you as a person?

Answer: It helped me to be patient and consistent while working steadily towards a goal.

Question: Who was your greatest support as an athlete?

Answer: My father. He supported me no matter what the result of my efforts were as long as I did the best I could. 


Question: Who was your greatest rival in swimming?

Answer: Henk Leendertse. Outside the pool a good friend, inside a fierce competitor and my biggest rival. I since then lost touch with him, but I am convinced he, too, became successful in whatever profession he chose by contributing his success to the skill set he learned as a competitive swimmer.


Question: What was your best event, and was it the event you enjoyed most?

Answer: Butterfly, and yes, I enjoyed this the most!


Question: If you could give any tip to a young, aspiring athlete in general, what would it be?

Answer: Set a goal, start working, and be satisfied when you know you have done the best you can.