“The new Pieter van den Hoogenband”. That is what the 11-year old Nyls Korstanje was named after he swam faster then Pieter van den Hoogenband’s and Maarten van der Weijden’s youth records. His time didn’t go unnoticed by Pieter, who gave him some professional advice in his personal column. At the age of 15, Nyls joined the KNZB talent team and participated in the European Youth Olympic Games (the EYOF) on behalf of the Dutch team. 3 years later, Nyls participates in the World Cup (Canada) and the European Championship (Copenhagen). The World Cup is big success: Nyls takes a golden medal and a world record home. Het set the world record in the 4×100 mixed relay with Ranomi Kromowidjojo, Femke Heemskerk and Kyle Stolk by his side. Next step for Nyls: NC State!
Nyls is one of the athletes who is being closely followed by Slamstox. After some notable achievements, it is time to learn more about Nyls’ first 2 years at NC State. In this Q&A, Nyls talks about his choice for college swimming and NC State. We are also talking about his achievements, prices and ambitions. Finally, Nyls gives advise to boys and girls considering doing college sports in America.
Can you tell us something about yourself: where are you from? What sport do you do? What and where do you study now?
Originally I am from Sneek but I didn’t live there for long. I grew up in Nijmegen, where my parents currently live. I lived in America with my family from the age 6 to 9. In America I started swimming and I got familiar with the American sports culture. I am now studying at the North Carolina State University.
You chose for NC State at the time. What makes NC State so attractive to play and study for?
The swimming team is amazing. In the past 6 years, the team went from 34th place to the 4th place in America. And that didn’t come easy. The culture at NC State is special, I now understand how the swimming team became so much better in the recent years. And of course, I want to become better too.
How important is the relationship with your coach and what can other swimmers learn from this? Did your coach also contribute to your performance?
The relationship with a coach is the key to success. You have to invest a lot of energy and time in each other, and that yields a lot for the long term. During my recruiting process I realized how passionate my coach was: I believe he can take me to an individual NCAA title.
What has America offered you so far in the academic/professional field?
In the Netherlands it is extremely difficult to combine top sports and education. It is possible, but you will never have the connection with classmates as you do have in America. Here, I am just a normal student. Which is what I enjoy a lot! I am not an outsider, but an example for fellow students.
Who is your great example in the sports world and why?
Caeleb Dressel. He is an American athlete who went to the University of Florida and swims phenomenally fast! He is quit revolutionary in his way of swimming and I respect that a lot.
NC State is one of the best swimming teams in the Division 1 in America. Does this bring a high pressure to perform?
Yes, the pressure is high. The team depends on how you perform and you represent the school. It is good to learn how to handle the pressure. I now understand why American Athletes are so relaxed during World Cups and the Olympics. To be honest, I found the NCAA championships even more exciting than the World Cup swimming.
You’ve won several awards already and even swam a world record once! What price are you most proud of?
The world record was very cool! The 4×50 mixed in 2017, I think I am most proud of that. I am also very proud of my golden medal in the 50 meters free at the European Youth Olympic Festival 0f 2015, in Georgia.
What is your best sports memory at NC State so far?
I think the NCAA Championships in Austin, Texas in 2019. The atmosphere was so amazing!
What do you think is the biggest difference between college swimming and ‘normal’ swimming in the Netherlands?
College swimming is the opposite of being lonely. As a team, you work together. It is not only about swimming, you get as much out of your lives as possible. And in my opinion, that makes you a better swimmer. You grow as a person, in sports, at school and in life experience.
What in the American sports culture really impresses you?
The drive! People work so hard to become the best. No pain, no gain!
How do you experience the ‘tobacco road rivalry’ at your university and within your sport?
The rivalry between schools such as NC State, UNC and Duke is intense, especially in basketball. The sport is great and rivalry makes it even greater.
What is the craziest thing you’ve experienced with your team so far?
Christmas training. The ultimate hell of heavy training. We did 17 swimming workouts in 9 days and strength training every other day. Physically, I’ve never been so broken before.
How big is the campus? What kind of activities do you like to do besides sports and study?
There are a lot of different activities on and around the campus. You name it, and there’s a club(house) on the campus. Yet the campus is quite compact, it’s based just outside the town of Raleigh and everything is within walking distance. The school has 35.000 students!
What do you think is the most beautiful swimming paradise in the world?
The swimming pool in Rome. Great bath. Every year there is a swimming competition and people from all over the world participate.
What time do you get up every morning and what time training starts?
Usually, 4:45am. So I’m going to bed early!
If you weren’t a swimmer, what sport would you do? And did you also go to college?
I have always been good at athletics, especially the long jump! I still hold the record of my primary school in Nijmegen;) But I don’t know if I would have been good enough to go to America of course
Pedro from Slamstox visited you twice during your time in America, the last time with his brother Fons who will go to NC State in 2021 (for tennis). Then, you gave some beautiful tours around the campus! What is it like to speak Dutch again and to show your campus life to other Dutch people?
It is nice to show the Dutch around! Speaking Dutch anyway is fun, that is of course not very common on the campus. An American campus is so different from a Dutch school, it’s cool to show this to others.
How good are you with losing?
Not that well! I don’t like losing, but it is good to lose sometimes..
Can you tell us something about the NC State ‘howling cow ice cream’?
Haha, best ice cream in the world! Apart from Italian Gelato, of course! The howling ice cream is made from the milk of the cows from the College of Argiculture, one of NC State’s major colleges!
We have the feeling that you are very popular with the American College girls, is that right? Or do you not have any time for that?
Hahaha, unfortunately I do not get in that much contact with the college girls.. Usually the contact is being made at parties, and I don’t have time to go there. The girls I know are just from my classes 😉
What do you do in our free time/holidays?
I enjoy working with my hands and I often do that with my Engineering roommates. For example, we put a motorbike on a bicycle, we make candles and we often do things with 3D printing. I enjoy doing new things!
What goals did you set for yourself before you came to America? Do you have the feeling that you did achieve them, or that you will?
My biggest goal is to reach the Olympics of 2020. Which is, of course, a delayed goal now, but I am still going for it! I also want to become a NCAA champion.
In America you are the fastest swimmer (50 meters freestyle) in your academic year, and the number 6 in total. Is this ranking important to you?
Not really. I swam that 6th time without having a perfect preparation, and most likely the other 5 didn’t have one either. I’ll need to swim my fastest time at the NCAA Championships: the fastest swimmer there will be champ. Ranking doesn’t really matter.
We would like to set 2 Slamstox-goals with you:
Which goal will you achieve first (no pressure…)?
Participating in the Olympics! The qualification for the Olympics will be in december, 4 months before the next NCAA. 😉
What are your plans after studying in America?
I may do a master somewhere. I don’t know for how long I will keep swimming. I’ll have to figure that out by the time I finish studying.
What do you give as a tip, to get the most out of the America experience?
Enjoy the experience and give everything you have. It is a special world and you will gain a lot of life experiences.
Nyls, thanks! In addition to your 100% commitment and talent, people can certainly learn from your beautiful character as well! Good luck with your goals and don’t let anyone take them from you. 😉
Are you, just like Nyls, also interested in combining sports & study at NC State or another university?
Contact us and see what your options are!