Esther Vergeer is one of the Netherlands' greatest sportswomen. She has earned every tennis prize there is, but her story did not end with her tennis career. With seven golden paralympic medals under her belt, Esther is currently active as the deputy chef de mission of the Dutch paralympic athletes who will set off for Rio de Janeiro next summer.
As a Partner of the Future, ABN AMRO is sponsoring four paralympic sports associations. Offering a little help on the way to the top!
Leonie Verwer Sponsor Manager
Esther made her first appearance in Paralympic sports in Sydney in 2000, and promptly won gold at nineteen years old. Athlete Lara Baars is another young sportswoman who will be making her debut at the Games at age nineteen. As a debutante at the Doha World Championships, Lara won a silver medal in the shot put. This achievement also won her a coveted ticket to Rio.
A little help
As a Partner of the Future, ABN AMRO is sponsoring four paralympic sports associations: the athletics union, the swimming union, the tennis association and the wheelchair basketball association. Each of these partnerships focuses on supporting and developing talent within sports for the disabled. We believe it is extremely important that this group of sportsmen and women receive some help in realising their ambitions.
Founded on paralympic core values
The paralympic core values are courage, tenacity, inspiration, and equality. In the partnerships with the sports associations, ABN AMRO specifically focuses on the latter two themes. For instance, we have set up a mentor-apprentice formula where the associations' up-and-coming can be inspired by today's top athletes. We consider the sharing of knowledge and experience to be a major priority. Another one of our key points is integrating able-bodied and disabled sports into shared tournaments. At ABN AMRO tennis tournaments, wheelchair players and able-bodied players each perform their respective matches during the same week. The programmes run in parallel and players share the same facilities, including the hotel and the athlete lounge in Ahoy. As for the paralympic core values courage and tenacity, we believe no one can express these better than the sportsmen and women themselves. We support and contribute by actively portraying their efforts and achievements through social media, PR and video.
A paralympic talent camp
The Paralympic Talent Camp was a prime example of an event where the paralympic core values were expressed. In cooperation with the four associations and NOC*NSF, we hosted a camp for forty young paralympic talents between the ages of 12 and 18. These youngsters spent five days of training together and truly connected with one another in power training. We also held several inspiration sessions, with ABN AMRO ambassador and top hockey player Jeroen Hertzberger as one of the speakers. At the conclusion of the week, for each association one future talent was chosen. These four young talents were each awarded with a check worth 750 euros to be invested in their talent development.
Talents of the Week
Basketball player Quinten, athlete Lara, tennis talent Ruben and swimmer Querijn were crowned Talents of the Week. Each of them received a well-deserved cheque worth several hundreds of euros. Now, five months later, all four talents have been able to make significant steps forward. A small contribution can have a huge impact.
Investing in material
The young stars were free in their choice how to spend the cheques, provided it would contribute to the development of their impressive talents. Basketball talent Quinten and swimmer Querijn both opted for an investment in materials. Quinten purchased new wheels and tires, and a wheel case to transport his sports wheelchair. Querijn went for a pair of Arena glasses and brand new swimming trunks. 'These trunks have been specially designed to minimise water resistance while swimming. During the Dutch junior championship I performed well, setting new personal records on each distance, even in the finals! Of course, that is partially because of those great swimming trunks.'
Going for a world ranking
Tennis talent Ruben highly values personal assistance: 'With my private coach, I put a lot of effort into improving my shots and my game. I hope to catch up with the seniors this way. Firstly, I am aiming to take a place among the world's top two hundred. In addition I want to improve my world ranking with the juniors. So for now I certainly have plenty of challenges. With the ABN AMRO Camp money, I can participate in several tournaments and can spend more time working with my personal coach. In short, there are many steps I can take now to continue improving myself.'
An international tournament schedule
This year, Lara made her debut at the European and World Championships. Currently she is making great progress as an athlete in the discus-throwing, shot-putting, and javelin throwing disciplines. Lara has set three European records since last summer. During a grand prix tournament in Berlin, she outdid herself. 'This is hopefully the start of a glorious career – in my absolute favourite activity,' she states. Her career is gaining a lot of momentum right now. At the Doha World Championships she broke her own previous European record by shot putting to 6,80 metres. A feat to take pride in!
Heading for gold
With amazement we continue to follow the stories of Lara, Querijn, Ruben, and Quinten. They aim beyond the Netherlands' borders, and each of them wants to debut in an international tournament. Meanwhile, word is out that Quinten has earned himself a ticket to the Paralympic Games with the Dutch team thanks to their strong performance at the European Wheelchair Basketball Championships. Lara has won a ticket as well. The talents are lining up to follow in Esther Vergeer's footsteps, as sportsmen and women and perhaps even as chef de mission in 2030!