We’ll wave them goodbye tomorrow. In the port of Scheveningen. There, our golden team leaves for Tokyo. Eleven athletes who, like children, will symbolically emerge from the mouth of the harbor on mini surfboards, in Optimistjes and a pop-up canoe. With national coach Jaap Zielhuis just behind, sailing in a clog. A little cheesy maybe, but it shows the atmosphere around this team, which it is not about the system go where of aura of the coach, but the passion for sport and fun predominates. As the manager of the Watersportverbond, it’s wonderful to see: such a cheerful, grateful and motivated team at heart. The Netherlands should be allowed to color orange for this. Here are the Olympians of Team Allianz:
Martina Wegman | Kanoslalom
After qualifying for the 2019 Olympics, she prepared extensively in New Zealand. There, she also does the extreme variant of the canoe slalom. A sport so harsh that a waterfall hesitates to fall and that the crocodiles with their mouths open await their dessert. Martin leaves. In Tokyo, this canoeing adventurer can slalom through the top 10 with a bit of luck. In addition, she will have to deal with a few high-level athletes from Below and the former Eastern bloc.
Nicolas Heiner | Finnish class
Monstrous good sailor. Belongs to the European summit. Became Laser World Champion in 2014 and moved to Finnish in 2017. A discipline for the Jerommekes among sailors. So he had to eat extra pounds. This meant during the dinners: all the desserts to Nicolas. Now he’s a super-fit, extremely strong and lightning-fast sailing giant. A contender for the podium in this last time the Finnklasse is Olympic. Nicholas is trained by his famous navigator father Roy and Jaap Zielhuis.
Kiran Badloé | Windsurf board RS: X
rising star. In fact, a star. Managed to beat double Olympic champion Dorian van Rijsselberghe in perhaps the finest Olympic qualifying races ever designed by the men themselves. Kiran is the reigning three-time world champion. Asset. The length, the look, the goggle and the pistol factor. On the shelf, he’s a nimble and swift alien. On the way to a gold medal. What else? The playing field at the Olympic Games is less solid than at a World Cup, as only one participant per country is allowed to participate.
Lilian de Geus | Windsurf board RS: X
Modest killer. Small in size but very solid. She learned to surf from her brothers while on vacation in Italy. What few people know is that she was also an avid soccer player and a youth international. Exactly, a young orange lioness. Yet the love for water was greater. A successful choice, because she became three times world champion and once European champion. The surfer narrowly missed a podium in Rio in 2016. Note this intelligent silent force.
Lobke Berkhout and Afrodite Zegers | 470
Formed as a duo since 2018. Sovereignty qualified for the Olympic Games. Lobke is a five-time world champion in the 470 class and (arguably) the best sailor in the world. At the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, she won the silver medal with Marcelien de Koning. For Lobke, Tokyo is the comeback after becoming a mother. Afrodite is originally from Greece, but emigrated to the Netherlands in 2010. Together with Jesse Kisters, she became the Youth World Champion in the 470 class. Aphrodite was also present in Rio de Janeiro. There she took fourth place with Anneloes van Veen. Fact: Aphrodite also plays the piano wonderfully.
Annemiek Bekkering and Annette Duetz | 49er FX
Less known to the general public, but world famous in water sports. When you meet them in town, you think: cool girls, college girls. In the meantime, they are double world champions in a class of sailing known for its difficulty, as boats have an annoying tendency to capsize if nothing is done. Outside of water sports, these ladies are talented academics. So stop, even a game of shuffleboarding is a hopeless exercise in front of these sportswomen.
Bart Lambriex and Pim van Vugt | 49er
The competition will swallow when they see these sailors: if only they had waited four years. Bart and Pim are all open-minded and energetic. Nickname, at least for me: The Skippers of the Chameleon, the Hielke and the Sietse of Team Allianz. They were already in the boat from their diapers. In fact; Bart’s parents themselves competed in the Olympics. After a surprising advance, Bart and Pim are the last of Team Allianz to qualify for the Olympic Games. Bart is also top notch in electronic sailing. Very curious about these two. Put it on gentlemen.
Marit Bouwmeester | Radial laser
Grand lady of Dutch sailing. Well-known Dutch sports and sports ambassador. Won Olympic silver and gold in 2012 and 2016, respectively. Long live the philosophy: Talent is fun, but hard work is better. A real winner. Do it for nothing less than gold. Marit would therefore have preferred to visit Tokyo more often. To better study the currents, tides, weather conditions. Because this sportswoman visualizes all possible running scenarios in her head and sits as much as possible in the weight room.
Jaap Zielhuis | the head coach
This endearing man is living proof that you can be both bossy and terribly kind and approachable at the same time. Karma, aura, or whatever footballers call it, just a good guy. Which, in a natural way, also places the responsibility on the athletes. In addition, Jaap cares about the extent of Watersportverbond and the future of our sport. Ask him about the chances of these Olympic Games and his answer is as sober as it is clear: “We have a fantastic team, but everything has to be perfect to be able to take it.” There is no sport that is statistically more difficult to catch than water sports. There is no finer sport either, but that aside.
Team Allianz athletes and supervisors good luck and have fun. We color orange.
Arno van Gerven is director of the Royal Netherlands Water Sports Association. Each week, he discusses topical issues in water sports. Would you like to respond? Do it at [email protected]