Den Bosch – The gymnast from Waalwijk is the oldest of the five guys that are gonna represent the Netherlands in Rio next month. Despite the fact he is 33 years old, he’s got zero Olympic experience. Still van Gelder will travel to Rio with confidence.
“I’ve experienced the Olympic Games from the sidelines twice,” says Yuri van Gelder. “I know what it is, but it will be the first time that I will actually compete in it.” During the Athens Olympics in 2004, van Gelder had a volunteer job within the organization. “I decided back then, that I would compete myself in 2008.” It never worked out that way for the gymnast from Brabant. During the World Championships in Stuttgart in 2007, van Gelder won the silver medal with a score of 16,625. Just behind the Chinese gymnast Chen Yibing. According to the rules back in those days, that was not enough to qualify for the Olympics as a specialist. For the second time, van Gelder travelled to the worlds biggest sports event and again, he was watching from the sidelines. “This time it was really hard. I just saw my medal, being given to someone else.” Chen Yibing got the gold medal with a 16,6. “The golden score was even less than my silver medal score during Worlds. That hurts. I should have been up there too. I left the arena crying.”
“I was really good, really ready for it,”retches ‘The lord of the Rings’. “I can’t say I was better than I am now. I feel stronger than before, but the requirements are a lot more tough too.” Van Gelders career knew a lot of downs since the Beijing Olympics in 2008. In 2009 he confessed the use of Cocaine, after a posive doping test. He got suspended for a year and lost his job at the Dutch army. In 2010 he made his comeback, but pulled out of the team before the World Championships on home soil, in Rotterdam. Again cocaine would be the reason, but all the doping tests were negative. Afterwards van Gelder spoke about the confession being fake and not being able to handle the pressure beforehand. He was looking for a way out of the tournament.
Outside the medals
It seems to be tougher to get onto the podium in big competitions after all this. In 2010 he won the gold medal during a World Cup event in Ghent, but a lot of times he ended up just outside the medals, even though he had a good routine. In 2011 van Gelder made his comeback during the World Championships in Tokyo. He made a little error during the dismount and ended up in fifth place with a 14,666. Chen Yibing, Zanetti, Yamamuro and Morandi all scored higher. During the World Championships in Glasgow in 2015, van Gelder was sixth, scoring a 15,5. Eleftherios Petrounias won the gold medal there. “I'm feeling ready and better more than ever,” says the Greece gymnast convincingly. “But Olympic Games it's a huge celebration and I'm looking forward to compete there! The scores on rings are close because in the top 8 the athletes have small differences in the D- and E-score. The most important in my opinion is to have a good difficulty, with an amazing execution to have what it takes to win. I believe the E-score is more important than D. We are doing 'artistic' gymnastics, so we need to have difficult routines but we also need to do them like it’s nothing.” During the last European Championships van Gelder also ended up just outside the podium. He placed fourth with a 15,566. Petrounias was on top again, ending up with the gold medal. “The scores are very close,” says van Gelder. “If my scores are given biased is difficult to say. I do get that question a lot, because of my past”
People who doubt that van Gelder will ever get a medal during a world stage event, only drive him to perform even better. “Some gymnasts did manage to earn some points they did not really deserve. InnoSportsLab in ’s-Hertogenbosch designed the ‘Smart Rings’. That system makes it clear if you held the element long enough. After the competitions we analysed some routines and the evidence says I just lost three medals.” The system is not officially implemented yet in international competitions. But the system is tested during the Junior European Championships last spring in Bern. Van Gelder can’t use any of this information yet. “When the system is gonna be used in competition, the difference will be made between those who really hold the element for two seconds, and those who cheat a little. This information makes me even more motivated, because I know that I can do that.”
During the qualification competition in Heerenveen van Gelder showed a different routine, one with more difficult combinations. He told to have a jar with several routines he can choose from. The routine he competed in heerenveen had the highest difficulty and he would have an advantage with 0,1 with that one. During the competition he scores a 15,350 (without a twisting dismount). Not necessarily higher than an ‘easy’ routine, competed during Worlds in Glasgow or Europeans in Bern. “I will compete my old routine in Rio, but just a revised version,” smiles World- and European champion of 2005. “The old routine is steady and I only need to pay attention to the details. The new routine is really hard and I only win 0,1 in D-score, but I will definitely lose that in the E-score.” Van Gelder seems pretty sure about using the old routine in Rio. Coach Bram van Bokhoven is not so sure yet. “I’m not sure wether he will benefit from the 0,1 in difficulty. In Heerenveen you saw that he scored lower than with his old routine, but we still have two weeks to work on it. It takes its toll on his biceps though.” Van Gelder is feeling very fit, but still is pretty sure he will use the old routine. “The routine I competed in Glasgow, I can compete easily untill I’m 45. That one is easier for my body. We only need to get it as clean as possible, so that I won’t get more than 1,0 point deduction in E-score. I compete the same difficulty as the ringspecialist who ended up in the top 5 during Worlds, so I know my routine is enough.”
It won’t be the first time van Gelder travels to Brazil. His girlfriend is Brazilian. “It makes the Olympics extra special and very cool that she can be there with me. I feel at home in this country and it is nice that I know the city and the language.” Still van Gelder won’t say it’s an advantage that his girlfriend is at home there. He is fully aware of the fact that Olympic Champion Arthur Zanetti, will fight for his title on home soil too. “The Brazilian crowd will offcourse cheer for Arhur, but it seems they know me pretty well too. I hope the arena will show some orange, that would be nice!” The Greek current European- and World Champion Petrounias also looks up to Zanetti. “I believe there will be a big fight for the gold between me and Zanetti so I wish that the best will win. I think the fight for the bronze will be between de Chinese gymnasts.” Even better would be if Yuri van Gelder ends up on the podium. “We all compete the same difficulty. So it’s possible for everyone and I will give everything I have. I have competed in so many competitions and this is the only one missing. I know I can still do it and I will do everything I can to make it happen!”
Deze post is ook beschikbaar in: Dutch