There was truly no better moment for Noël van Klaveren to win a silver medal than when she took second place on vault at the 2013 European Championships in April this year.
This medal opportunity might not have come at all.
Few knew that at this time that rising star Noël van Klaveren was contemplating retirement from gymnastics due to the increasing financial burdens of training in her chosen sport.
“It just was not possible financially any longer,” says van Klaveren in the fifth episode of The Hard Way to Success, a documentary series about the careers and experiences of elite gymnasts.
Noel’s parents, Fred and Wilma van Klaveren came to this unfortunate realisation, and then had to break the bad news to their daughter.
“There was a moment when we said that we could not do it anymore. It was so expensive, we just could not afford it. We told Noël she had to quit training in Amsterdam. She obviously was really upset- but she understood, ” said Wilma.
As expected, it was a very difficult fact for the promising young gymnast to come to terms with.
“Noël really struggled with it, but she said that if there was no other way she just had to quit. I already prepared the termination letter for Amsterdam. She really did not want that, ” says Wilma.
This decision to leave the sport was particularly difficult because at this point in time van Klaveren, one of the major talents in the Dutch WAG team, was on the brink of her international breakthrough. She did, however, realise the cost for her parents.
“It really is very expensive and I, obviously, want my parents to be happy too. After a good talk with my parents and coaches we did everything we could so that I could continue with gymnastics, ” says Noël.
Now, with the help of various people and sponsors van Klaveren is able continue her career in gymnastics.
And it was that silver medal at Europeans in Moscow was the icing on the cake. This meant the 17-year-old gymnast was designated what is called an ‘A-status’ by the National Olympic Committee. This entitles athletes to a supplementary income to train, which van Klaveren describes as “financially extremely nice.”
Noël van Klaveren started elite gymnastics at a young age, training at a gymnastics hall called DOS Alphen aan den Rijn. In Alphen she ‘only’ trained 12.5 hours a week for years, while many other gymnasts her age trained 20 to 30 hours a week.
When she joined the junior ranks she realised that she was not putting in enough hours to really become one of the best in the country. A transfer to a different club, where she could train more hours became necessary. The gymnast picked a club called Turning Spirit Amsterdam.
Where previously her training hall had been only five minutes away on her bike she now found herself on a bus to Amsterdam every single day. This was also a big change for her parents. “Transportation was a puzzle we had to solve. We can barely plan anything. We want to do everything for Noël,” says Fred van Klaveren, Noël’s dad.
Noël’s recent results prove that the transfer to Turning Spirit Amsterdam has been a very good choice. The hard work proved to be enough when, at the Challenger Cup in Cottbus, she won two medals and suddenly became known as the biggest talent in the Netherlands.
Then, not even a month after Cottbus, at the European Championships in Moscow, she claimed silver on vault. She is now headed for the World Championships in Antwerp and her ultimate goal, The Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
It wasn’t always easy, however: “The road to the senior level was tough. It was a huge step to take and we worked really hard,” says Noël.
The entire story of Noël van Klaveren is being told in the fifth episode of The Hard Way To Success. The series is produced by Sports2Visuals.
Here is the latest episode, with English subtitles:
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