Mieke Gorissen may be a late bloomer in running, but it didn’t stop her from coming in 28th during the Women’s Marathon Final in the recently concluded Tokyo Olympics.
The 38-year-old Olympian made her home country Belgium proud with her excellent athletic performance. Mieke finished the race with a time of 2:34:24, which places her at 28th place out of 88 participants.
“I prefer not to finish last. I want to be ambitious, but also sensible and realistic”, Mieke said about her goal for the marathon.
Well, she was far from last, finishing in the best third of all participants. 15 runners had to give up on the way, and Mieke was one of those who completed it triumphantly.
This is a remarkable accomplishment, considering that she only focused on distance running three years ago and that the Olympics is only her third marathon!
“Am I 28? That’s impossible,” Mieke asked in disbelief, crying tears of joy after the marathon. The video of her reaction upon hearing the results has gone viral for her pure emotion and genuine humility.
“I was already happy to finish the race,” she said through sobs. “I do think I have reached my goal and that I can be happy.”
“I also think I lost a toenail,” she joked.
Mieke also shared a photo of her running the marathon on Instagram. She wrote:
“I still can’t believe it… Can I really call myself an Olympian now? I can’t wrap my head around it. I feel so humbled by this experience. The support, the cheers, the spirit of Team Belgium, the wonders of Japan… How lucky am I that I got to be a part of this? Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
Mieke’s Olympic story is unlike any other. While many other athletes have dreamt of competing in the Olympic Games and trained from childhood, Mieke only began competing in 2018 at 35.
But Mieke is glad that she didn’t take up the sport at a younger age.
“If I started running in my teens, it wouldn’t have been good for me,” she said. “I wasn’t really happy then, I would have been too hard on myself and I would have lost myself in it in a way that wasn’t healthy. It came at exactly the right time.”
Mieke’s running career started when she brought a treadmill to exercise at home. She then joined a fun run in Diepenbeek and finished second.
“Then I thought, ‘Hooray, there is a sport that suits me’,” she said.
After the event, she received a Facebook message from someone impressed with her performance. That person asked her if she would be interested in joining his team.
Before going under the guidance of a coach in 2018, Mieke ran the same 10-kilometer course a few times a week. Since then, she has improved significantly. In February this year, she became a cross country running champion.
“The form felt really good and I wanted to see what I could do with it in a marathon,” she said after the race.
And in April, she ran the Enschede marathon and qualified for the Olympic Games. However, she didn’t think of going on an internship or further professionalization in the months leading to the event.
Mieke, who works full-time as a mathematics and physics teacher at Provinciale School Diepenbeek, said she enjoys her profession “very much.” That’s also why she didn’t have time for an internship. Her priority is helping students as best as possible at the end of the school year.
Mieke loves to knit and read books during her spare time, especially science books and science fiction fantasy.
Congratulations, Mieke Gorissen! Watch her reaction to finishing 28th in the video below.