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Alumnus Dave Wesselink: lawyer and professional bobsledder

Leiden Law School alumnus Dave Wesselink began his career as a lawyer in 2022. He’s also a professional bobsledder. ‘When you’re tearing round a bend at 130km/hour, you need to be able to stay calm and focused on what you’re doing.’

Why did you decide to study law in Leiden?

‘I’m from Alkmaar, so I had the option to study law in Leiden or Amsterdam. Amsterdam was a bit too big for me, and I thought I’d be able to have more fun in Leiden. And I turned out to be right – I had a fantastic time as a student at Leiden Law School.’

What was it like studying for a degree while training as an athlete?

‘I stayed living at home and never actually moved to Leiden. Back home, I was doing high-level athletics training every day, which meant there wasn’t much time for activities with study associations. Looking back, it’s a bit of a shame that I wasn’t a more active student. I wasn’t in Leiden all that often, but when I was, I had a really good time.’

Wesselink: 'That level of variety is what I like most about my work.'

And why did you choose to study law?

‘I didn’t really know what I wanted to study, so – as lots of people do – I went for law. Luckily, I enjoyed it more and more as time went on, so in hindsight I’m really happy with my decision.’

You now work as a lawyer. How are you finding it so far?

‘It’s great. The work is challenging and very varied. I specialise in corporate law and often work on cases involving mergers and acquisitions. I also handle shareholder disputes and directors’ and officers’ liability. I alternate between working at the office, supervising mergers and acquisitions and representing clients in court proceedings. That level of variety is what I like most about my work.’

And you’re also a professional bobsledder… How did that come about?

‘It was a bit of a coincidence, actually. I already did athletics, and I had the chance to go to an athletics camp in Tenerife. When I was there, I happened to talk to someone from Germany who was a bobsledder. He really sparked my interest in the sport, and so I filled in a form expressing my interest with the BSBN (Dutch bobsleighing union). Shortly after, I was called by the union, asking if I could travel to Austria two weeks later to give bobsleighing a go. Within the space of two weeks, I went from temperatures over 30°C to around -10°C. I really enjoyed trying out bobsleighing, and that’s how I got into it.’

But why bobsleighing?

‘People often move on to bobsleighing having done other sports first – athletics being a good example. With bobsleighing, the start is crucial as it’s one of the three factors that determines your finish time. For that, you need a combination of speed, explosivity and quite a lot of power, which is why stronger, slightly heavier athletes – often sprinters – can be great bobsledders.’

How do you combine your professional sportsmanship with your job as a lawyer?

‘You can’t do bobsleighing in the Netherlands – you have to travel abroad. So in the winter, I’m often abroad for long periods in order to train, and fortunately the law firm I work for gives me plenty of freedom to do that. Last winter, I was away for 12 weeks between October and March: two weeks in Austria, two weeks at home and then another two weeks in Germany. When I’m back, I work full time for those two weeks. It’s a lot, but I really enjoy that variation.’

Wesselink (front right) during the Bobsleigh World Championships in Winterberg

You’ve just been to your first World Championships. How was it?

‘Absolutely amazing. It was in Winterberg, so there were lots of Dutch people. My parents and friends came too. It was incredible to perform at the highest level in the world with spectators watching and all those cameras pointing at me. That's what I always aspired to in athletics as well, and to be able to do it on the world stage with a completely different sport was really cool.’

Next step… the Olympics?

‘Absolutely. The next Winter Olympics will be in Milan in 2026, and we’re doing everything we can to work towards that. We have two more seasons to qualify. If we continue what we’re doing and we stay focused, we’ll definitely make it.’

Is there anything you learned from your studies or legal practice that you apply to your bobsleighing?

‘I think that would be my ability to keep my cool when I’m under pressure and only focus on the next step once I’ve finished the part I’m on. The same applies to bobsleighing – if you’re tearing round a bend at 130km/hour, you need to be able to stay calm and focused on what you’re doing.’

What would you like to say to current students?

‘Enjoy your time as a student! Sometimes I think I maybe didn’t do enough – I didn’t just enjoy life alongside a healthy dose of concentration on my degree. I was a bit too focused on studying and sport and spent too little time simply enjoying being a student.’

What’s your guilty pleasure?

‘I love playing video games with my friends – that’s when I really relax. We’ll play Call of Duty or the animation game Fall Guys.’

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