Dutch women storm back into the Paralympics with only weeks to go!
The Dutch women have participated in every single Paralympics since Sitting Volleyball was introduced for women in 2004. So, it was tears of disappointment when the team failed to qualify for Rio in March this year. They lost the final of the Intercontinental tournament in China to Russia and it looked like the team of coach Pim Scherpenzeel would miss the Paralympics for the first time in history.
Then, with only weeks to go to the opening ceremony, the IPC confirmed suspension of the Russian team for their national doping program and the Dutch women were in. The news turned tears of disappointment into tears of happiness. We hear from the head coach and two team members as they share what the decision means for them.
Elvira Stinissen celebrating a point at the London 2012 Paralympics: “Quitting was not an option”
“This is a crazy feeling” says captain Elvira Stinissen. “Europe only received two of the total amount of eight tickets for Rio, while we are the strongest continent. In March we lost the battle for the last ticket in China with a 3-0 loss against Russia. It was a tragedy”.
After missing qualification for the Paralympic Games, the experienced Stinissen didn’t think about quitting the national team. “Quitting was not an option”, she said. “Especially since The Netherlands is hosting the 2018 World Championships.”
Stinissen speaks out her opinion about the IPC ban on Russia as well. “We discussed the subject with the members of the IPC and it’s terrible that the athletes got exposed to such a doping network. The fact that the IPC acted appropriately, and won the CAS appeal, is a positive step and it opens the doors to a cleaner sport”, says Stinissen, who is a new member of the IPC. “We don’t know if innocent athletes are involved in this suspension. Besides our own happiness that we are going to Rio, our thoughts also go out to the Russian team which we played against very often.”
“I can’t explain how happy I am” were the first words of Hong Zhao (49) when she heard that she was going to the Paralympic Games. The athlete, born in China but living is Sneek (the Netherlands) is making history. She is going to participate at the Paralympic games for her new homeland, after she participated in 1988 at the Olympic Games for China. “I realize that what I am doing is unique and it makes me happy and proud. But I would like to add that as the Dutch national team we are not only going to Rio to participate, but we are going to play for a medal. It really is fantastic that this opportunity is given to us.”
“After the Intercontinental tournament we got together as a team and we decided to keep up the hard work. We played against China and America and, in September, we received a request to practice against Canada. We answered that question with a big yes! The practice matches against Canada prepared us very well for the Paralympic Games.” Canada is one of the opponents in the group of the Dutch national team. Besides Canada, The Netherlands also plays against Ukraine and the host country Brazil.
Head coach Pim Scherpenzeel: “Training very hard for Rio”
“We were so happy when we heard we were definitely going to Rio”, says head coach Pim Scherpenzeel. “We knew that there was a chance that we could still go to the Paralympics, so the last few weeks we trained as if we had qualified. Our team is ready for Rio. I am not going to speculate about the color, but we definitely want to play for a medal. Of course we are enjoying the fact that we are going to Rio, but we are also training very hard until the tournament starts.”
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