Gerben Wiersma and Vincent Wevers, the trainers of the national gymnastics selection, have been suspended, but the KNGU gymnastics association does not want to say so on legal grounds. The measure is formally called: immediate termination of the top sports program for female gymnastics. The consequence is that Wiersma and Wevers can no longer perform their work as national coach.
Also read: Joy Goedkoop: ‘Trainer Vincent Wevers hit and kicked me’
The board and management of the gymnastics federation called on Wednesday at the national sports center Papendal Wiersma and Wevers to account, after former gymnast Joy Goedkoop Studio Sport accused of transgressive behavior. In addition to mental intimidation, Wevers inexpensively accused of hitting and kicking during the period that she trained under him at the TON club in Oldenzaal. After her transition to Heerenveen Goedkoop came under the care of Wiersma, who did not physically abuse her, but would have mentally damaged her.
Inexpensive allegations fit into a series of gymnastics abuses about which various victims – exclusively women – informed the KNGU, but which never led to consequences for accused coaches.
The board and management of the gymnastics association, which nowadays emphatically claim to pursue a culture change, have not left it this time. They understood that after a confession about the mistreatment of gymnasts from trainer Gerrit Beltman in the Noordhollands Dagblad and a boom in new complaints, passivity would no longer be accepted, and certainly not if it concerns coaches who are employed by the union, such as Wiersma and Wevers.
Institute of Sports Justice
The KNGU did not want to disclose details about the consequences for the working relationship with the two national coaches at a press conference. The association will submit the allegations to their address to the Institute for Sports Justice (ISR). This must show what the employment law consequences are for them. The union already said on Wednesday that Wiersma and Wevers may no longer perform their duties this calendar year.
Only after completion of the independent investigation into the safety of gymnastics, which the KNGU has conducted under the guidance of sports lawyer Marjan Olfers, is it decided whether the top sports program for the gymnasts will be resumed. The results are expected at the end of December.
The measure, which was taken in consultation with financier NOC-NSF, is not limited to a penalty for the national coaches, but has far-reaching consequences for the gymnasts from the national selection. Their preparation for next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo is interrupted abruptly. Central training and training camps have been suspended. Technical director Mark Meijer of the union does not even know whether a women’s team will be sent to the European Championship in Baku in December.
The gymnasts can continue to train at club level, which is what most of the national selection already does. Dutch champion Eythora Thorsdottir, for example, trains in Hoofddorp under Patrick Kiens and only reports for central training and training camps at Wiersma and Wevers.
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There is only a problem for the four gymnasts who are trained by Wevers in Heerenveen as standard. For the twins Sanne and Lieke Wevers, Vera van Pol and Naomi Visser, a solution must be found quickly, a task that Meijer, who has returned from vacation, has to deal with immediately.
The KNGU would have liked to implement its measures more broadly. The complaints about trainers are not limited to the two national coaches. The problem is that the association has no authority over club coaches, outside of the licensing. For example, a group of gymnasts last year filed a complaint about transgressive behavior with the Pax association in Hoofddorp, where Kiens is the responsible trainer. The Institute for Sports Law concluded after investigation that there were no unacceptable abuses.
Bond: also action at local level
As a result of the increasing number of stories of maltreated gymnasts, the union wants action to be taken locally. Technical director Meijer will talk to the clubs in the coming months and will insist on more strictness. The union lacks powers to intervene at employment level at club level, but wishes that the new line be followed nationally. “The current situation calls for drastic measures, because the problems go beyond those with two bond coaches,” says Meijer. Wevers and Wiersma were not present, because the announcement was too fresh shortly before to be able to respond adequately, according to the KNGU. Wiersma announced via an app that he did not need to respond. Wevers was not available for comment.
A version of this article also appeared in nrc.next dated July 30, 2020