January 25, 2022

Max Verstappen, new legend of Dutch sport

Crowned Formula 1 world champion, Max Verstappen left his mark on the history of sport in the Netherlands. On this occasion, the Red Bull driver became the first Dutchman to win the F1 title. World famous and number one sportsman in his country, he joins legends such as Johan Cruyff, Sven Kramer and Marianne Vos.

The world of Formula 1 knows its new champion in the person of Max Verstappen. However, during this Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the Dutch champion did not even spend more than one lap in the lead of the race. On the 57 of the 58 laps of the Yas Marina circuit, Lewis Hamilton has continued to distance his rival by more than fifteen seconds. There was nothing to suggest that the Briton was not going to become world champion for the eighth time in his career. But an accident on the track and the arrival of the Safety Car changed everything. This allowed Max Verstappen to get closer to the lead and win on the last lap.

A true star in his country, Max Verstappen should embody the image of Dutch sport in the years to come. Before him, who were the main headliners of this small country of about 18 million inhabitants?

Johan Cruyff, triple Ballon d’Or

Johan Cruyff, who died in 2016, was considered to be one of the best footballers in Dutch history, if not the best. Triple winner of the Ballon d’Or in the 1970s, he was the first to win the title of best player in the world three times. Child of Amsterdam, he carried Ajax to the roof of Europe by winning five Champions League (1967, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1983). Also later as a coach with his favorite club, Johan Cruyff brought real added value to Ajax, on or off the pitch. Shortly after his death, the club from the Dutch capital decided to rename their stadium, “Johan Cruyff Arena”. The former glory also gave a lot for his country with in particular a World Cup final disputed in 1974.

Sven Kramer, the Dutch emblem on ice

In speed skating, the national sport in the Netherlands, Sven Kramer is the number one athlete. In addition to being the most recognized in his country, he is also the best skater in the world. The native of Heerenveen has won everything in his career. Possessing no less than 41 medals, he is currently a quadruple Olympic champion over 5000m and in team pursuit. To this we can add two silver and three bronze medals, still at the Olympic Games. His record all the more impressive with 32 World Cup victories, and 26 world championship titles (including 22 gold). At the age of 35, Sven Kramer is surely the Dutch athlete with the most medals.

Marianne Vos, cycling pioneer in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, Marianne Vos is the reference for women in cycling (the sport being the most practiced there). Its adaptation to any type of surface is its strength. Note seven world titles obtained in cyclo-cross, three on the road and one on the track. The 34-year-old former world number one left his mark on the discipline with two Olympic gold medals in 2008 on the track and in 2012 on the road. In the big tours, Marianne Vos has won the Tour of Italy three times. In addition, she has won seven Classics, five times the Flèche Wallonne and twice “La course” by Le Tour de France. In the Netherlands, her work has already been recognized with three personal distinctions as sportswoman of the year (2008, 2009, 2013).

Richard Krajicek, the only Dutch winner of a Grand Slam

Now 50 years old, Richard Krajicek is still the tennis benchmark of his country. The native of Rotterdam has accumulated 17 titles on the ATP circuit in fourteen years of career. Ranked 4th at most in the ATP, Richard Krajicek achieved the feat of winning a Grand Slam tournament. It was 1996 at Wimbledon, making him the Sportsman of the Year in the Netherlands that year. He has also already won the last four at the Australian Open in 1992, at Roland Garros in 1993 and at the London major in 1998, two years after his coronation. In addition to its already well-rounded list of achievements, there are two Masters 1000s, in Stuttgart in 1998 and in Miami in 1999.

Pieter van den Hoogenband, triple champion olympique

The 43-year-old swimmer, now retired in 2008, was the head of the swimming pool in his country (the second most popular sport). The native of Maastricht held the world record in the 100m freestyle (47 ″ 84). The latter was topical for eight years, from 2000 to 2008. He was beaten by Frenchman Alain Bernard. The Dutch swimmer has collected seven medals at the Olympics. Of which three in gold in Sydney and Athens over 100 m (x2) and over 200 m. Pieter van den Hoogenband also has 45 medals in the World and European Championships combined, including 17 gold medals. Like Marianne Vos, the former of the pools was elected sportsman of the year in the Netherlands. And like her, he was three times in 1999, 2000 and 2004.

Epke Zonderland, four times elected Dutch sportsman of the year

Here is a hell of a phenomenon in the person of Epke Zonderland, gymnast specialized in the horizontal bar and gold medalist in 2012 at the London Olympic Games. His skill in the discipline has earned him the following nickname “The Flying Dutchman”, in other words “The Flying Dutchman”. The fan of the high bar but also of the parallel bars, has totaled six medals at the World Championships (three in gold) and eight at the European Championships (three in gold). His rigor and his magnificent results in the discipline have made him the sportsman of the year in the Netherlands, four times (2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013).

Photo credits: f1i.autojournal.fr