Netherlands' Olympic gymnasts practise at Fly High Fitness in Dubai
Netherlands' Olympic gymnasts practise at Fly High Fitness in Dubai Image Credit: Cint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: Members of Team Netherlands gymnastics squad have gold on their mind as they continued sustained preparations at the Fly High Fitness facility in Dubai.

The eight-member squad landed in Dubai last week to continue their preparations for the upcoming European Gymnastics Championships at the end of April followed by the Tokyo Olympic Games starting in July.

“We are going to be here for 10 days and the focus will always be to be the best we can while preparing for the European Championships and the Olympics,” Bram von Bokhoven, Head Coach of Team NL, told Gulf News. “As the national squad we train at four different venues back home, so coming to Dubai and being in a safe and secure environment during these times, we really couldn’t have asked for anything better as we all get together as one team and get the opportunity to push each other to higher goals during training towards such important competitions ahead.”

Team NL is a mix of experience and youth. Led by Bart Deurloo, a veteran of four editions of the World Championships, other members include Frank Rijken, Casimir Schmidt, Bram Verhofstad, Martijn de Veer, Jordi Hagenaar, Jermain Grunberg and Hamza Hossaini.

By far, Deurloo is among the most experienced member on the squad with his bronze medal on high bar at the 2017 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Montreal the highlight of his career.

“It’s good to have high goals heading into such an important year. The European Championships couldn’t have been better timed as they will help us assess where we stand as a team heading into Tokyo,” Deurloo said. “I’ve been with the national team for a long time now. And yes, maybe it is time that we look towards medals. But for me personally, I will target a place in the final first [in the high bar] and then we can look forward to a medal,” the 29-year-old insisted.

“At this age I am a sort of ‘veteran’. Quitting at this juncture could be a mistake. I feel I need to stick around in the squad as my experience will be of great help to the younger crop coming through.”

Schmidt, whose best so far was a silver medal in the men’s vault event at the 2015 European Games in Baku, is confident of chasing down his Olympic goals that he dreamt as a four-year-old. “My sister who is four years older to me used to attend gymnastics. She used to come home and teach me how to do the flips. At that juncture my parents advised me to go for proper training if I had such an interest in the sport. Since then, I have always had the Olympics on my mind,” Schmidt related.

Now 25, Schmidt also participated at the 2013 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships and at the 2015 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Glasgow. “This place [Dubai] has been simply too good for us as a team. We get a chance to be with each other, push each other around and work hard towards one single goal. It’s been hard for all of us especially during the pandemic. But I always think that there are others who have been going through even tougher times,” he said.

“Here we are having all the fun and working hard at the same time. The Olympic dream lives on for me and for my teammates here and we couldn’t have had a better place to push ourselves towards medals.”

20-year-old Jermain Grunberg is among the younger gymnasts. With a dislocated small finger, he is there more for the experience at the moment. “My goals are long-term and could be starting with the Olympic Games in 2024 Olympic Games [in Paris]. So right now, it is important that I soak in all that I can with an eye on the future,” the youngster related.

“For the moment I want to target the 2021 World Championships in Japan [from October 18-24 in Kitakyushu] as that would be a sort of stepping stone for me for the future ahead. We’ve got a bunch of strong senior gymnasts in the squad and I am quite enjoying the learning process at this moment,” he added.

“The ultimate goal for me would be to have a medal around my neck each time I represent my country. And with the start I have made I feel this can be achieved,” Grunberg stressed.

Though the Netherlands shone at their debut at the 1928 Olympic Games, it was only until artistic gymnast Sanne Wevers achieved gold in the balance beam at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games becoming the first Dutch female gymnast to be crowned an individual Olympic champion.

In the men’s section, three-time European Champion and 2005 Dutch Sportsman of the Year Yuri Van Gelder made it to the final of the rings at the 2016 Games. But the gymnast was dismissed from the Dutch team as a disciplinary measure and could not compete in the final.

Fly High Fitness offers gymnasts two full gymnastics floors and Olympic grade equipment to allow teams to train. Fly High Fitness’ Head of Gymnastics, Cristian Brezeanu, a former international gymnast for Romania — he participated at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics — and later with South Africa, is keen to ensure stability of the facility with an eye on the future.

“Our vision at Fly High Fitness was always to provide a facility not just for local athletes but to become a destination for international athletes as well. We’ve had Team GB here in the past and now Team NL is enjoying the benefits of training under a safe and secure environment,” Brezeanu said.

In addition to the world-class sports facility spread over 70,000 square feet, Fly High Fitness offers a range of strength and conditioning equipment including CrossFit, Martial Arts and TechnoGym spaces, in addition to steam, sauna and plunge pool facilities for athletes’ recovery.

“We at Fly High Fitness, are proud to open our doors to some of the world’s top athletes, offering them one of the best facilities in one of the most attractive and safest cities in the world,” Omar Benani, General Manager, Fly High Fitness, said. “Fly High Fitness was created to combine community fitness, training the next generation of athlete, as well as being a sporting destination for athletes globally, which we are seeing more and more in the wake of the pandemic. With the stringent safety procedures set in place by the UAE Government, we feel very confident to welcome the teams here.”

Netherlands squad

Bart Deurloo; Frank Rijken; Casimir Schmidt; Bram Verhofstad; Martijn de Veer; Jordi Hagenaar; Jermain Grunberg; Hamza Hossaini. Bram von Bokhoven (Head Coach)