Series17 Oct 2018

High and low – Lisanne de Witte


Lisanne de Witte at the European Championships (© Getty Images)

After being disqualified from the IAAF World Indoor Championship Sopot 2014, it took Lisanne de Witte more than four years to reach her career high in Berlin this summer. Rising to the pressure, De Witte became a European bronze medallist in the 400m, smashing the Dutch record in the process.  


“2018 was honestly a great year for me but it didn’t start off as I had planned. I was running 54 seconds over 400m indoors, which was terrible, and then for the start of the outdoor season I opened with 53 seconds. It was frustrating because I knew training was going well and this was such a big year for me.

“However, I then went to the FBK Games in Hengelo and from that moment onwards everything was so much better, I think competing in front of a home crowd helped massively. I ran a 51.8 which honestly was a huge relief because before that moment self-doubt had started to creep in and I was so confused as to why I was running that slow.

“After that point things kept getting better, I ran a Dutch national record a few weeks later of 50.9 and I remember being so proud of myself for dropping from 54 to 50 seconds, it was a huge drop and a big personal best. My previous best was 51.7 so as you can imagine I was very pleased with myself. My only doubt was whether I could replicate it but then I ran a 51.0 at the London Diamond League and then truly believed in myself.

“Going into Berlin I was filled with confidence, I came into the championships ranked first which was really new to me. I think in a way the pressure kind of got to me in the semi-finals, I messed them up by coming in third and having to sit in the ‘hot seats’, which is where the fastest losers had to wait. Luckily, I made the final and was given lane two and to be honest I was weirdly pleased with that, I tend to do better in races where I can see the whole field and chase down the other girls. Whilst most people would view being in lane two as a bad thing I was quietly confident.

“After the race I had no idea how I’d done, I saw two girls cross the finish line slightly ahead which worried me because of course I wanted to win but I also really wanted a medal. I knew I was in the mix, but it was taking forever to flash up on the screens and I remember looking over to the stands and I saw my sister going crazy. She was crying and screaming so loud, so at that point I knew I’d done it. Having my sister there with me helped so much as she’s an athlete too, we were both so emotional and it was definitely a high point in my career.”


“I think my lowest moment came at my first senior championships that I ever went to (the Sopot 2014 World Indoor Championships). I was running pretty good during that indoor season, I was fairly new to indoor running in general and was actually surprised at how well I was doing compared to the rest of the world. For the championships themselves I didn’t really have any expectations, I just wanted to get through the rounds and see how far I’d get.

“I made the semi and it was a mixture of relief and excitement, I never really expected to make it so in a way this isn’t a total low moment. I was so unbelievably happy but then the semi-final was my worst nightmare, I got disqualified. One of the athletes fell and the judges deemed it to be my fault, I wasn’t so sure, I won’t get into it now but it is what it is and I’ve learned from it.

“I remember being so confused, wondering what had happened and afterwards I was heartbroken. It didn’t help that I was so young, when you are that young things can play on your mind more. But looking back I’m glad the experience happened to me back then, so I could learn from it. That was four years ago now though and it took me over four years for me to reach my high point.”

Ben Harlow for the IAAF