The World Championships surprises

While recovering from the accumulated lack of sleep caused by watching the World Championships Athletics the last 10 days I observed a few interesting things.

I guess everybody  noticed the many surprises, positive and negative: Mo Farah and Usain Bolt lost where they looked undefeatable so many times before. The loss of Elaine Thompson in the 100 meter women, etc. For Jamaica the WC results were bad, mainly due to the fact that three athletes dominating sprint before, Bolt, Thompson or Fraser-Price, were not in good shape or weren’t there at all. Interesting though: Jamaica does no longer seem to limit itself to producing only good sprinters: a gold medal in men’s hurdling, also finals in shotput women, and even the 5000 meter men.

Focusing on the positive surprises: USA 3000m steeple women: gold and silver. The boost of South Africa and smaller countries: Venezuela, Norway. Syria taking a medal in high jump. The “recovery”  of the dominance of USA in sprint events and Kenia in the longer distances. France and Germany taking their places again and yes, the 800 meter men, which is always a roulette, saw two non-Africans winning gold and silver. Turkey winning the gold medal in the 200 meter.

And what about the Netherlands, many people ask me. Yes, we have 5 very good athletes, all female: Dafne Schippers (100m and 200m), Nadine Visser (hurdles and heptathlon), Sifan Hassan (1500m and 5 km),  Anouk Vetter (heptathlon), Susan Krumins (5 km and 10 km).  They were all good and they peaked at the right moment.

The men were terrible this time: Churandy Martina injured himself before the Championships and the years start counting against him.  Eric Cadee, our discus thrower threw 64.93 in 2017, but did not make into the finals with a disastrous 58.60, more than 6 meter less! Menno Vloon, our pole-vaulter jumped 5.85 this year but had a strange accident during the qualifications and was out.

Thymen Kupers, who won his 800 meter heat very convincingly with the fastest time overall, did not start in the semi-finals due to an injury.

Richard Douma, the 1500 meter runner stumbled in the heats, still made it to the semi-final and became dead last in a terrible time, of course.

Eelco Nicolaas, our best decathlete of the last decade,  scored a hopeful 8539 points this year only to give up the second day due to an injury. His colleague Pieter Braun, scored 8334 points this year but ended with 7890 points, 500 points less.

The 4×100 relay showed where they are without Martina: nowhere. They  stumbled in the heats with a sixth place in 38.66.

Isn’t it peculiar, the men doing so terrible, injured or not being able to peak and the women doing so great with  4 medals?

The rest of the women, like the men, were quiet unconvincing too to put it mildly.  In throwing and sprinting they, like the men, stayed far behind their best performances of 2017. 4×400 meter relay got DQed, 4x100m was dead last in the final, Broersen, heptathlon, gave up injured and in shotput Boekelman more than 1 meter from her best performance in 2017(!?).

Here is the secret:  Schippers trains with a foreign coach, and so does Hassan, Krumins is training in the US as well.  Vetter is coached by her father and Visser might leave her coach as well, if history is an indication for the future.

These hard numbers prove that Dutch track coaches suck and although our Olympic Committee tries to tell the world that we have the best educated coaches in the world, nothing is further from the truth. Their education is practically non-existent or totally inadequate to cope with the demand of performing at the highest level.  If they are as good as they think, why are the best performances  produced by athletes who train with foreign coaches?

Enough about the Dutch.

It also becomes more and more clear that the concept of nationalism or competing for your country is old-fashioned and arbitrary, athletes change countries as easy as they change clubs or coaches.  Just as in other sports. International immigration is normal.  They rightly choose for the money, the passport or the training facilities. Is the medal in the 5 km for Sifan Hassan a medal for the Netherlands, for Europe (like a reporter said) or a medal for Africa? I don’t know and I don’t really care, as it is a medal for Sifan Hassan. Where she comes from, where she lives and for which country she competes is hardly interesting. Until we find a better solution we will have to deal with athletes who compete for a country.


  1. Wim Scharrenberg

    Hello Mr. Henk Kraaijenhof
    As always I enjoyed your clear and critical opinion. In my profession, IBT-docent at the Policeacademy, and as a longtime trainer in Martial arts, I am very happy with your knowledge and vision,and use it frequently.This time in one point I can`t entirely understand one fact about the Dutch coaches.

    You named Anouk Vetters father,Ronald, but you did not give your opinion about him or compared him with the other athletes and coaches you meant. Obviously the presence of the foreign trainers absolutely stimulated the results,do you think Anouk should leave her father as a coach?
    In my outsiders view Ronald trained some very good athletes, seems open-minded about other ( foreign) trainers to me and led Nadine Broersen to the indoor-world title. Is he the exception of the rule in your opinion?
    I may be not totally objective,as Ronald and I studied together at the CIOS in Overveen ( quite a while ago….) so I am very interested in your opinion on him.
    I look forward to your answer!

    1. Hello Wim,

      Thanks for your justified comment, you are absolutely right: Ronald Vetter and Bart Bennema have proven time and time again over the last few years that they are able to bring athletes to world class level and win medals. Unfortunately, they are exceptions, and despite they fact that sports federations want you to believe that the education of coaches in Holland is amongst the best in world, the facts prove that this is not the case. Take a good hard look at the results of the Dutch team again: 22 athletes/relay teams: 5 athletes did very well: Hassan, Krumins, Schippers, Visser and Vetter (all women), 4 athletes did not finish the world championships because they got injured: Vloon, Kupers, Broersen and Sintnicolaas, simply bad results from Cadee, Douma, Boons, Boekelman, 4×400 meter, Sedney, Braun and Samuels (far below their 2017 level), the 4x100m men, 4x100m women, Bakker, Verstegen en de Witte: they did what we could expect from them. Martina and Gaisah did not even make it to the WC. In other words: a very bleak result, whereby the medals and success of 5 women just kind of disguise the overall bad results. And three of these successful women train with a foreign coach or abroad (Schippers, Hassan and Krumins) Even some people doubt if Schippers is doing so much better than 2015 and 2016. In athletics, medals are won by the strength or weakness of your competitors, times and distances tell the real story. The ultimate task of the coach is to prepare his/her athletes physically, technically, tactically and mentally to perform at their very best…. when it count. In other words: to make the athletes peak at a major championship. A task which seems to be too hard for most of this generation of track coaches and maybe food for thought. Congratulating yourself because Schippers, Vetter and Hassan won medals is just not good enough, and hardly displays the mindset and culture that is necessary to improve in the world of high-performance.

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