European Judo Championships Junior organiser Thomas VAN GESTEL and his 130-strong team are making sure everything runs smoothly in The Hague. All of them – including the 33-year-old tournament director – are volunteers. The organising committee was founded three years ago, and the preparations have been in full swing for 15 months. The many hours have paid off, the competition days have run smoothly so far. Only the sporting success had to wait a long time.
How satisfied are you with how things have gone so far?
Thomas Van Gestel: “We had a few problems on the first day of the competition, in the first hour after the start of the preliminary bouts. Not everything went fast enough. But we quickly got to grips with that. The spectators didn’t notice. The opening ceremony also went according to our plan. We had scheduled 25 minutes and were finished after exactly 25 minutes. The final blocks also started right on time.”
The atmosphere in the hall is contagious, the stands are already well filled in the preliminary rounds, a lot of children and young people stream into the hall. The noise level is impressive. The interest in judo is something to be proud of, isn’t it?
Van Gestel: “We invited more than 1,000 pupils and sold 2,000 tickets – at prices starting at 12.50 euros. Yes, the atmosphere is really good. The children are having fun.
What has been your best moment so far at this Under 21 European Championships?
Van Gestel: “Firstly, when the first preliminary round matches started and the students made a lot of noise. That makes us proud – that’s exactly why we organise a European Juniors Championships. We want to advertise our sport. The Under-21 European Championships are the best advertising – with all the side-eventss & workshops involving our top stars. On Sunday, Dutch television will come and stage a show fight of a youngster against one of our Olympic athletes. This kind of public attention is good for us. On the other hand: When it was clear on Saturday noon that we would get the first medals, when Lieke DERKS (- 78) and Lars VAN OOSTRUM (- 90) entered the final for gold. We have a really strong team, on the first two days there was a lot of bad luck. But now the spell is broken. Every medal brings additional attention.”
What else can be expected on Sunday?
Van Gestel: “As I said, we have a strong team. We can also get Mixed-Team European Championship gold. That would be the perfect end to a perfect European Championships Juniors.”
Author: EJU Media