Young people can look around at the Papendal Medal Factory. Have you seen those thighs? That was Jeffrey Hoagland

Many athletes are being prepared for the big work in Papendal, like athletes N'ketia Seedo (right) and Zoë Sedney here.  ANP image

Many athletes are being prepared for the big work in Papendal, like athletes N’ketia Seedo (right) and Zoë Sedney here.ANP image

Olympic careers may very well start here on Tuesday, suggests a member of the Arnhem Sports Council. “Maybe you discover your sport today,” Bob Roelofs, 66, tells a group of more than two dozen children from the Johannes School in Arnhem. Most of them play sports, especially football. “And when I’m in the retirement home, you’re in the Olympics.”

The Roelofs launched Het Geheim van Papendal on Tuesday, a program that will introduce children from groups 6, 7 and 8 of primary schools in Arnhem to sports and major sports next year. Arnhem Municipality wants these children to exercise more. One hour a school day is the “Exercise Guidelines”. At the same time, they must learn that healthy food can also be very tasty.

Ultimately, the municipality wants to stop the downward trend in the number of members of sports clubs in the region. And who knows, a gym membership might lead to Olympic success.

The Papendal Olympic Training Center, the world’s highest-renowned sports center within the municipality’s borders, soon emerged as a place where children could not only learn about many different sports, but also meet Olympic medalists. Like Anouk Vetter and Emma Oosterwegel, they are good for silver and bronze in the Olympic heptathlon in Tokyo. The two have just finished training on the 130-meter indoor track in Arnhemal.

Highland drumsticks

Have you seen those thighs? This was Jeffrey Hoagland, says a teacher after the laughing children walked past the Olympic and world cyclocross champs with their eyes averted. Hoagland was lying in his underpants on a mat with the physiotherapist on his knees beside him.

Participation is more important than winning was the correct answer to the question: What is the motto of the Olympic Games in the quiz at the start of the day. All children know that.

Papendal asserts the opposite. “Better sport is about winning and performing,” that’s what it sounds like in a video about the healthy food kids get at Top Sports Lunch. They soon learn that in Papendal it never comes from a package or bag and what an athlete needs: “Carbohydrates, fats and proteins!”

Of the 36 medals won by TeamNL in Tokyo, 19 are from Papendal. During the excursion, the children get acquainted with the huge best sports center, which, according to them, is one of the 10 best in the world. The Netherlands has collected no fewer than 148 gold medals across all Olympic Games, the children were told during the competition. Belgium is only 46 years old. ‘Because we have Papendale,’ it seems.

Top athletes are radioactive

In all the gyms where children are allowed to attend for this time, they walk through the corridors with pictures of the medal winners who prepared for their success in Papendal. Only top athletes shine. “If you fail to prepare, you must prepare to fail,” is freely translated into English on the wall of Wim Ruska’s judo hall.

“You have to be among the best in the Netherlands to be able to train here,” warns Papendal manager Jochem Schellens. Marcus from group 8, the tallest of the group, would love it. He loves sports, and especially running makes him feel like he can take on the world. “I want to be an athlete, but I’m getting old too fast.” So fast that he now has problems with his knees. “It should get better on its own,” Marcus says after a brisk walk among fellow runners on the track. “But sometimes I find it hard to stay motivated.”

Football, gymnastics, and tennis are the sports that children mention most as their favorite sport. But maybe they will enjoy bouldering, football, running alive or one of the 30 sports in total that they can try for free in Arnhem as much as they want.


Like BMXing. Learning about this Olympic sport, with its many Dutch successes, is what children are especially looking forward to. Coach and freestyle motorcyclist Pim Shears, who dreams of participating in the Olympics, has come up with increasingly difficult tricks.

Miriam cries when the most difficult task succeeds. Dylayla, who quickly becomes one with the bike, can imagine the life of a great athlete, but with a team sport. Tydjairo – “there is hardly anyone with that name” – dreams of becoming a professional footballer. “Only, I can’t do anything with the left.” I’m on the left. I want to stand on the right.

David, who now plays soccer, but also wants to play basketball, has quickly mastered the scooter and can stand still for a long time with his feet on both pedals. “I think I want to do this too,” he decides when he wins a snail race. It went slower from A to B.

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