Independent female Olympian wants own flag
Philipine van Aanholt is an Olympian like no other. She is the only woman to be competing in the Games without a country.
She is one of just four independent Olympic athletes, who are competing under the Olympic flag. If they win, the Olympic anthem is played.
van Aanholt comes from Curacao, which used to be part of the Dutch Antilles, a group of five islands in the Caribbean, until it voted for independence in 2010. It has yet to be recognised as a separate state by the UN.
But, as van Aanholt qualified for the women’s laser radial sailing event, the International Olympic Committee allowed her to compete as an independent.
She said some of her friends had been confused by her independent status:
“It’s been quite hard because one of the special things about the Olympics is that you can compete for your country and do them proud.
“People are wearing their team colours. You don’t feel that team spirit.”
She didn’t even get to see the other independent athletes, as she was staying in the sailing village in Weymouth, three hours from London. She is now back in the main Olympic village in London.
For van Aanholt the best part of the Olympics was the opening ceremony.
“That was the first time I realised what the Olympics are.
“It overwhelmed me. The reception from the crowd was amazing, with so many school kids waiting for the athletes and asking for autographs.
“We did a dance. We tried to act out our sports which I don’t think many people got.
“We wanted to remember this for the rest of our lives. Everyone was clapping and screaming, amazing,” she said.
She has also been to the Olympic Association and met inspirational athletes past and present, including an 84-year-old who competed in the 1948 games.
van Aanholt is now off to study business and economics in Holland.
“It’s important to have a study behind you. It makes you more well-rounded,” she said.
She plans to keep enjoying her sailing, and will take things slower for the next two years before building up for Rio in 2016, but she is not confident that her country will be recognised.
“I don’t think it will happen, I wish it would so I can compete under my own flag,” she said.