Who is 17-year-old figure fighter Lindsay Van Zandert?

Who is 17-year-old figure fighter Lindsay Van Zandert?

Figure fighter Lindsay van Zundert (17) during a training session at the Capital Indoor Arena in Beijing, China.Photo by Koen van Weel / ANP

For ten minutes, Joan Hannabell was standing at the ice rink. In front of her, a young figure skater was completely immersed in her workout. To get her attention, the super skater and former TV presenter (81) said her name: “Lindsay.” The girl was stunned, she was very nervous. “You never saw me.”

Five years later, Lindsey van Zandert was at the Winter Games, the first Dutchman in 46 years. The reaction still characterizes Van Zundert, Haanappel believes. The 17-year-old snowboarder can sink her teeth into her sport like no other. “She can focus very well.”

Van Zundert no longer remembers that meeting from five years ago. But she gets to know herself perfectly in him. When she’s on the right track, she can completely forget about the world around her. Then there is nothing but her, her sleds, and the ice. “I’m totally in my element then.”

Haanappel herself competed in the Winter Games twice, in 1956 and 1960. She achieved her best result the second time. Then it was fifth. Together with Sjoukje Dijkstra, who took silver in 1960 and gold in 1964, she watched wistfully how discipline was becoming less and less in the Netherlands.

While the Dutch became increasingly dominant in long-track speed skating and swept Olympic titles together, after the participation of Dutch-Canadian Diane de Leeuw, the figure skater was unable to make it to the Games. Twelve years ago, Haanappel and Dijkstra created the Netherlands Art Rides Foundation (SKN), through which they lend a helping hand to young talent, including through training camps.

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Van Zandert immediately popped up. Dijkstra first saw her in a selection match. Hannabel, who lives in Brussels, was not among them. Excitedly, she told Dijkstra over the phone that she had seen “such a nice girl” driving. Hannabel: “Honestly, I actually forgot about it after that, but when I got on the ice in the Dutch national championship, I immediately asked Sjok: Who is this?”

Ice rink in Efteling

Van Zundert was six years old when she first skated on a makeshift rink in Efteling. It was sold immediately. “Mama said we had to go further to the park, and that we couldn’t stay in the ice rink all day. Then I had a test lesson for my seventh birthday. Since then I’ve continued to skate.

Snowboarding is a sport that has evolved greatly since the time of Hannabel and Dijkstra. The combinations of hops, spins, and freestyle complexity are of a higher order. This makes the sport more about talent than ever before. The best among the best in the world at a young age.

Van Zundert’s long side snowboarder: She is now 1.69. It has grown more in the last year. “It’s: the smaller it is, the easier it is,” she says. Small, light competitors can jump a little higher more easily, and therefore rotate around their axis more often while they are in the air. This is worth a lot in jury sport. The best Russians can do trebles, Van Zundert keeps it on trebles.

At the same time, the somewhat larger building is not an insurmountable obstacle. Italy’s Carolina Costner is 1.69 meters tall, became a five-time European champion, one-time world champion and a bronze medalist at the 2014 Games. Van Zundert: “When you’re bigger, you have to skate bigger, you get faster. That’s how it is.

Haanappel immediately saw that Van Zundert had something extra. “It kind of kept me calm for a while,” she says. On the same day, she and Dextra sat down with Van Zandert’s mother. To talk about her future in figure skating and what SKN could mean.

    Lindsay van Zundert in Tallinn, Estonia, on January 13, 2022. Image Tom Kalnins / EPA

Lindsay van Zundert in Tallinn, Estonia, on January 13, 2022.Tom Kalnins statue / EPA

Van Zandert was born and raised in Eten Lorre and is a family man. In preparation for the Games, she went into seclusion in Heerenveen, while training at Thialf, with her grandmother Sonya. It was great that Grandma was always there before she left for Beijing. This is how I felt at home.

From Beijing, she has a lot of connections with the house, especially with “Mama” Chantal Vervuren. Haanappel really impressed the family. “They want to learn, too.”

She says that because of her involvement and the connection she feels with van Zandert, Hannabel became part of the Brabant family. And the artistic fighter herself sees it this way. “Joanne has become a family. We are very close. They have almost daily contact.

Collect returnable bottles

Despite the support of SKN, it wasn’t always easy for Van Zundert to pursue her dream in top sports. When she was 14, she would go door to door collecting deposit bottles. She wanted to use the proceeds to fund a training trip to the United States.

“She’s a hard worker and does everything to improve her,” says Karen Herijers, her Belgian coach. “If you say to her: You have done your kurta ten times, she will do it ten times, without saying anything.” And according to Herrigers, this is an indispensable attribute of the best sports.

She finds her willpower all the more impressive. She does a lot of training hours and she keeps it up really well. And that’s tough, because she doesn’t have a big group to train with abroad. Not that Van Zundert trains himself. She works with the Belgian Loena Hendrickx.

She may be very disciplined, but to get started, you have to get on with a task. If Hergers didn’t encourage her, she wouldn’t. Her coach believes that she is not used to showing initiative. There Grandma says in the morning: You have to jump rope several times. She doesn’t do it alone.

Last winter, Van Zundert made his debut at the World Figure Skating Championships in Stockholm. To everyone’s surprise, she took 16th place. Such a good result has not happened since 1976. Although the qualification requirements for NOCNSF in the last Olympics were usually 12th at the World Cup, this time around, Parachute Sports showed itself more lenient. Van Zundert’s 16th place was good enough.

This year she did not reach the freestyle swimming at the European Championships. Just as in the Games, only the top 24 best short freestyle swimmers are allowed to advance to the second part of the tournament. Van Zandert finished 27th in the European Championships.

It’s not that easy for her either. Many predictions arose in one year. At the World Cup, she was still open-minded and then it’s hard to live up to that again,” says Hannabel. She is smart and knows that people expect a lot from her. But we say: you should not get involved in it.

Games as school

For Van Zundert, the Olympics are expressly meant to be a training course. NOCNSF’s indulgence also arose from this idea. She is young, who can gain important experience and become more famous in the world. Jurek Hendricks said last year that it plays a role, consciously or unconsciously, in jury evaluations. The Belgian was assistant coach at the time. “It is important for the referees to get to know you and this is only possible by participating in the biggest tournaments.”

Hirigers noted that these are exciting days for Van Zandert on Sunday during one of his recent training sessions. He is scheduled to have a short free swim for Tuesday. Before leaving Heerenveen she was very self-confident and strong. I feel like she’s under a lot of pressure right now. She feels a lot of pressure on herself. I see Lindsay different here than I saw in the Netherlands. I think we still need to give her a mental boost.

This doesn’t have to be a bad sign, Herrigers is quick to say. Van Zandert was also very nervous at last year’s World Cup in Stockholm. “And then it did really well, so we shouldn’t panic.”

Lindsay van Zundert during a training session in Beijing on Friday, February 11th.  Statue of Laurie Dieffembacq / BELGA

Lindsay van Zundert during a training session in Beijing on Friday, February 11th.Statue of Laurie Dieffembacq / BELGA

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