Gymnastics abuse file: ‘Back to wall’ | Sport


These are not half measures that were announced by the KNGU last Wednesday. For example, the top sports program of the Dutch gymnasts has been stopped and national coach Gerben Wiersma and national trainer Vincent Wevers are currently not allowed to perform their work. The impact is huge. What happened last week? We list everything in our gymnastics abuse file. By clicking on the links, you will get more background information on the relevant topics.

Impact on current gymnasts

Now that the best Dutch gymnasts can no longer train under the TeamNL banner, they are completely dependent on their clubs. But here too there are some trainers who have been accused more than once of transgressive behavior. That makes the road for the top players towards the European Championship in December and the Olympic Games of 2021 extra complicated. They must prepare for career highlights while many a supervisor is under attack. Who trains where now?

Marian and Wim Harmes, the parents of former top gymnast Suzanne Harmes.

Marian and Wim Harmes, the parents of former top gymnast Suzanne Harmes.

Parents Suzanne Harmes: ‘Nights not slept’

The parents of former Olympian Suzanne Harmes rang the bell ten years ago, in vain. They are relieved that finally something is being done against the abuses. “They really can’t close their eyes now.” The former gymnasts continue to talk about the dilemma they faced at the time.

“I couldn’t sleep for nights. You couldn’t tell anyone. Either they didn’t believe you or they said; “Then you take her off gymnastics.” But Suzanne didn’t want that. If your child so strongly indicates that she necessarily wants to continue gymnastics. What are you doing then? She just has a strong character and didn’t want to give up. We just stood with our backs against the wall. Of course we sometimes thought of taking her off, ”says mother Marian.

Suzanne Harmes in action during the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Suzanne Harmes in action during the 2004 Athens Olympics.

“That would have saved necessary trauma”

Suzanne Harmes was one of the first whistleblowers of cross-border behavior in gymnastics in 2011. In her case it was coach Frank Louter. Almost ten years later, the real breakthrough now seems to be coming. “It should have happened sooner, then you would have saved the necessary trauma,” says the 34-year-old former gymnast, who is one of the best in Dutch history. Incidentally, Mere does not feel compelled to respond to the allegations at the moment.

She knows all the old and new stories, but does not feel the need to take it all in now. “They are copies of what happened to us.” She herself now feels no reliving of all events. “Maybe I also choose not to read most stories. I’m very pregnant and I don’t feel like just reading drama, but I definitely get it. ”

Vincent Wevers

‘Always a good relationship with Vincent Wevers’

According to Marella Lodewegen, practicing gymnastics without a fight is almost impossible. She herself was one of the talents of the Netherlands in the eighties and nineties. “Top sport is hard, that’s just the case. Reaching the top is not always fun. You have to be able to push someone and not only with fun things. But of course that should not be accompanied by a young child burning down every day. ”

Lodewegen, now 41, entered the gym of Dos Dronrijp as a six-year-old girl and was trained by Vincent Wevers, the current bond trainer who is now under attack for allegations of transgressive behavior. Until the age of twelve she formed a kind of unity with Wevers. “I spent almost more time with him than with my parents. The tape was always good, even though it was strict. Of course it was not always fun. But at the end of the training we always closed everything well and there was no question of ignoring or anything like that. ”

Mark Meijer, technical director KNGU.

Mark Meijer, technical director KNGU.

‘Shocked, indignant and emotional’

It is clear that the drastic measure of the gymnastics federation has hit the national selection like a bomb. Mark Meijer, the technical director of the KNGU, also knows this.

“This is a very serious decision, also for me personally. I don’t have all the answers and solutions yet. This is very drastic for gymnasts who have been doing everything for ten years to make their dream come true in Tokyo. I spoke to the team last night. They are shocked, indignant and emotional. We see and feel the same pain. I have to embrace and understand that emotion. But I also have to look at how we can shape their ambition in consultation with those athletes in the coming weeks. They have that right. I don’t know how yet, but it is up to my booth and my job to make sure they get to the Games. ”

Naomi Visser, Celine van Gerner, Vera van Pol, Tisha Volleman and Sanne Wevers take the bronze spectacularly during the 2018 European Nations Cup.

Naomi Visser, Celine van Gerner, Vera van Pol, Tisha Volleman and Sanne Wevers take the bronze spectacularly during the 2018 European Nations Cup.

Drilling method counterproductive

Can Dutch top athletes win sports medals without strict drill masters? According to two experts, this is absolutely possible and it is time for trainers to recognize the power of ‘positive coaching’.

“It is an old-fashioned thought that a trainer should drill and correct negatively. So you may be able to perform well, but the children are broken down. It is an old way of thinking that a lot of fighting and a hard approach yield a winning mentality and medals ”, says Nicolette Schipper-Van Veldhoven, lecturer in Sports Pedagogy at the Windesheim University of Applied Sciences and specialized in a safe sports climate.

Vincent Wevers together with his daughters Sanne and Lieke.

Vincent Wevers together with his daughters Sanne and Lieke.

Where is the limit in top sport?

The Dutch gymnastics world is in an uproar because of the transgressive behavior of coaches and the training program for the national women’s selection has even been discontinued. But where is the limit for trainers in top sport? Telesport lets four prominent ex-top athletes have their say: Leontien van Moorsel, Inge de Bruijn, Jacques Brinkman and Dennis van der Geest.

Cesspool in gymnastics world further open

The cesspool of physical and mental abuse in the gymnastics world is therefore opening up more and more. After the shocking Netflix documentary about the abuse of hundreds of gymnasts in America, the outpourings of British ex-gymnasts about the transgressive behavior of coaches, things are now also being shaken up in the Netherlands.


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