Many sports fans will always remember his comments while Epke Zonderland won his gold medal at the London Games in 2012. It even became the title of his autobiography, full of stories from his gymnastics life. “He stands!”
It must be all the more painful that the acclaimed gymnastics commentator Hans van Zetten (72) has now fallen himself.
On Monday it was announced that the commentator will immediately leave the NOS, for which he has been reporting on gymnastics as a freelancer since 1986. The reason is the fuss that arose after publications in the magazine Heroes about his role in a gymnastics shop in 2011, at Pro Patria in Zoetermeer.
Van Zetten, honorary member of this club, has spoken “inappropriate and hurtful” about young gymnasts. “These statements prompted the NOS to sit down with Van Zetten. In that conversation, Van Zetten announced that he would stop working as a freelance commentator. ”
So a self-chosen departure. Although? The statement by Maarten Nooter, editor-in-chief of Studio Sport, indicates that Van Zetten may have been ahead of the NOS. “It is wise for Hans to conclude to stop and not burden us with this matter.”
The issue would never have been raised had it not been for a gymnastics crisis this year. If (ex-) gymnasts and trainers had not been kicked out of school (again) this summer, Van Zetten would have simply sat on the press stand during the 2021 Games in 2021, the last event he would cover, and probably would not have been remembered to his role in an affair nearly ten years ago.
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Partly due to the changing zeitgeist (the proverb about old cows no longer applies), the commentator has now had to answer for his statements from the past.
As it turned out: Van Zetten made an emphatic effort around 2012 to keep coach Frank Louter accused of misconduct out of the wind. Just like his colleague Gerrit Beltman, the gymnasts Renske Endel, Suzanne Harmes, Gabriëlla Wammes and Verona van de Leur accused the magazine of child abuse Heroes. The gymnastics association then wanted to take his license away from him, which caused bad blood at Van Zetten, who then stood up for the trainer of Pro Patria.
The honorary member thought it was scandalous. In his eyes, Jos Geukers chairman of the gymnastics association waged a personal vendetta against Louter. He wrote a long letter to Geukers and encouraged Louter to take legal action against the KNGU. All in a personal capacity, he would later emphasize, not in his role as a sports commentator.
“Ultimately, Frank Louter won the case, because the union president was no longer allowed to bring out a bad word about Louter on pain of a fine of 5,000 euros,” said Van Zetten this year during the publicity tour of his book. “Frank has also regained his trainers license and is again doing a very good job in Oldenzaal, where he trains young girls to become top gymnasts. My sense of justice is very strong. ”
The stories of the four top gymnasts? Resentment of a lost generation, says Van Zetten in the same biography. Van de Leur is said to have told her story because “all that fuss is good for her reputation as a porn actress. And Gabriella? She is there, an unmarried mother without vocational training. ”
Now, six months later, his tone has changed. In the NOS statement, Van Zetten says that his gymnastic heart is bleeding because of all the stories of young women about the cross-border training regime of their gymnastics coaches. “In the light of this current affairs, my judgmental statements from 2012 take on even more meaning. In retrospect, I find the sentences harsh and possibly offensive, and in any case not suitable for what I stand for as a former coach and national coach: always have respect for gymnastics, athletes and jury. That is why I am first addressing Verona van de Leur, Suzanne Harmes and Gabriëlla Wammes. For years I have provided your great gymnastic performances on TV with a lot of passion. Millions of viewers enjoyed it. And then you certainly do not deserve that I spoke so condescendingly about your testimonials at the end of 2011. I offer my sincere apologies for those statements described. ”
A version of this article also appeared in nrc.next on November 24, 2020