Young Dutch men’s team driven by Olympics dream

  • Netherlands competing in Esbjerg, Denmark Photo: WCF / Laura Godenzi

Dutch skip Jaap Van Dorp, 25, has one goal – making it to the Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea in 2018.

“We want to qualify. That’s what drives us to get the best out of ourselves,” he says.

Van Dorp’s young team – most of whom are still in high school, and the youngest being just 15 years-old [Stefano Miog] – would be the first curlers from the Netherlands to ever compete at an Olympic event. They are also the youngest competitors by far at this week’s Le Gruyère European Curling Championships 2015 in Esbjerg, Denmark.

Here, in Denmark, they hope to qualify for the Ford Men’s World Championships in 2016 [Basel, Switzerland: 2-10 April 2016] – and a ticket to the Olympic Qualification Event, that will be held in December 2016.

Van Dorp’s up-and-coming rink, Vouter Goesgens (third), Laurens Hoekman (second), Carlo Glasbergen (lead) and Miog (alternate), has seen significant successes in the past year. At the 2014 B-Division European Curling Championships in Champéry, Switzerland, they qualified for this year’s A-division tournament, marking the first A-level appearance by a Dutch men’s team since 2010.

The team, which trains at Curlingbaan Zoetemeer, the only dedicated curling ice between Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, are currently the fifth-ranked squad on the Curling Champions Tour. This autumn, they finished second at both the Swiss Basel Cup and at the Edinburgh International Curling Championships.

“We’ve had a pretty good season so far and teams are noticing that,” Van Dorp said. “We’re playing against teams that are more able and we’re having good games against them.”

Olympic aspirations take dedication, said Van Dorp, but that’s something he believes the Dutch aren’t short on.

“We are young guys who really want to work hard and have the same goal and the same motivation. We train a lot – almost every night,” he said, adding three of the team’s members are still in high school, which means juggling their studies with travel and practice schedules.

Training to play in Pyeongchang requires major financial commitments from the young players as well. Although the Dutch Curling Association pays for the men’s practice ice, the team pays their own way to tournaments and work during the summer to save up for travel expenses.

“Because we don’t have a lot of competition in the Netherlands, we travel all through Europe to play Curling Champions Tour events,” Van Dorp said.

“We don’t really have funding for that so we fund the tournaments basically ourselves. Any money that we win goes to more events.”

Rob Vilain, the Dutch Curling Association’s Topsport co-ordinator, said he can’t believe the determination and drive he sees from the young team.

Vilain said: “I’m just very proud of the guys – what they achieve and the commitment they give. To see that they achieve the goals they set, I think they can go much further than they are right now.”

“I think in a couple of years they’ll be contenders for going to the Worlds every year.”

Van Dorp said he thinks an Olympic appearance for the Netherlands – a country with about 150 curlers – would help bring people’s attention to curling and help it grow.

He concluded: “If we can try to perform well on the ice and do our thing, people will see us as a team, what we stand for and what we try to accomplish.”

“I love the sport and I want to enjoy it and show people how great it is. I think playing at the Olympics could help us do that.”

To follow the Netherlands at the Le Gruyère European Curling Championships 2015, visit: http://www.worldcurling.org/ecc2015/livescores

by Patrick Butler (Journalism Sport Media Trainee)