A very thin book of many shocking gymnastics stories

The line between the best sports and forced labor is a fine line. If you want to be the best, you have to do everything for her and leave everything to her. Eastern European cadaver discipline, modeled after Romanian Nadia Comaneci who, as a pale-nosed fourteen-year-old, performed flawless exercises and was the first to score ten – at the Montreal Games in 1976.

In the Netherlands, gymnasts competed for bacon and beans at the time. Until the 1990s, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a talented group appeared, trained and trained by ambitious men who went beyond the limits of what was permissible – and, as it turned out, often exceeded them.

In 2013, former gymnasts Stasja Kohler and Simon Hettinga opened up about their coach Gerrit Biltman. Take turns summarizing free exercise Detailed misconduct. “I was dragged on the floor, spit in my face, lifted by my neck, and thrown against the wall.” And: “It was abuse, scolding, and intimidation. I was a filthy whore.”

Biltman came up with a tepid mea culpa according to his victims years later Nordholland Dagblad. “I forgot that I was abusing their talents. I wanted to go to the games and I wanted medals. I never wondered if gymnasts wanted what I wanted.”

The Baltman case was not an isolated incident. His colleagues Frank Lotter and Vincent Weavers were also accused of misconduct and veered off course. About her coach, Luther Susan Harms said in Champions: “After my karate kick, I had enough. Frank scolded me, and I was always told I was a fat cow or a fat whore.”

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Vincent Weavers led his daughter Sunny to the Olympic gold medal on the balance beam in 2016. He also ended up on the dock. At the Tokyo Games, Dutch gymnasts had to lay off their own coaches last summer, so the results were disappointing. Deposed title holder San Weavers knew the reason: “Our sport has been destroyed.” She stood unequivocally with her father.

From chop to branch

Then a book was published in which half a century of achievements and abuses was summed up in 139 pages. Unprecedented football commentator Theo Retsma, a gymnastics freak, didn’t make a very successful attempt. recently released From here to Tokyo Jumps from scratch based on conversations with former coach and manager Retge Bielholt.

Just like in many newspaper articles, you read amazing examples of infringing behavior, but there are a few lines to discover in the book. Although the title is still very promising. Somewhere between the 1964 Tokyo Games and Tokyo 2021, the rise and fall of Dutch gymnastics occurred.

Anas Van Gerwin, Female Athlete of the Year in 1972, She was a Western star who did gymnastics in the shadow of the Eastern European Girls: The best of the rest. Describes what was lacking in the Netherlands at the time. “Sports is also a kind of masochism. You won’t get to the top with the phrase “Baby, are you tired, lie on the couch.”

Russian coach Boris Orlov got to the heart of the matter: “You have to deal with children, and for this reason it is a difficult sport.” From a report by NRC-Remmelt Otten editor in 1993: “A beloved toy sits on top of a suitcase with clothes. The participants are top athletes and young girls.”

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That was the period when things changed in the Netherlands. Participation is no longer enough, and competition for prizes has become the goal. Coincidence or not: With the dissolution of the Eastern Bloc, Dutch gymnasts emerged in the early 1990s. Given the plethora of accidents and doubts, the book is primarily about women. golden boy Epke Zonderland is touched laterally. It deserves a separate fist-sized biography.

The man who fondly commented on Epke’s horizontal bar exercise in 2012 (“Flying Dutchman. Standing!”), is discussed at length. And not without reason. Many abuses were condoned or at least minimized by Hans van Zeyten. He had to say goodbye as a NOS commentator at the end of 2020.

In short, we can say that half a century of Dutch women’s gymnastics has produced so many shocking stories that it is impossible to collect them in one thin book. So who’s next?

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