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Holland might be best known for its fascinatingly flat landscape dotted with windmills and dykes and its typical Dutch food products such as Gouda and Old Amsterdam cheese, yet the tiny nation has enjoyed considerable prestige within the international sporting arena too.
Below are five famous Dutch sports men and women (in no particular order) who have all enjoyed significant success whilst representing their country.
Joop Zoetemelk was a professional Dutch cyclist who started and finished the Tour de France a record sixteen times and actually won the celebrated race in 1980. One of the most successful tour riders of all time, he eventually hung up his cycling shorts to run a hotel in Meaux, France.
Ada Kok is a renowned Dutch swimmer and Olympic champion from the sixties. She won the European title in the 100-metre butterfly event in Leipzig at the tender age of just sixteen and, after coming second in two events at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, went on to take gold in the 200-metre butterfly in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.
Arguably the most legendary Dutch sports star of all time, Johan Cruijff won football’s coveted Ballon d’Or three times during the seventies and is universally regarded as one of the greatest football players in history. After a glittering career that saw him play for some of the best clubs in the world, including Ajax and Barcelona, as well as for his country (the Dutch international team never lost a match in which Cruijff scored), Johan went on to become a highly successful football manager upon retirement. Today he is frequently spotted with his trademark Chupa Chups lollipop in his mouth!
Dutch figure skater, Sjoukje Dijkstra, was Olympic Champion, three-times World Champion, five-times European champion and six-times Dutch national champion during her total dominance of the popular Dutch sport during the fifties and sixties. She was awarded the prestigious Fanny Blankers-Koen trophy in 2005, in recognition of her outstanding contribution to Dutch sports.
Evert van Benthem
Dutch speed skater, Evert van Benthem, won the punishing Dutch Elfstedentocht twice in a row, in 1985 and 1986, and even after retirement entered the gruelling natural ice-skating event as a tourist. The face of Calvé peanut butter for a number of years, Evert is now a farmer in Canada. We can’t help but wonder if he still orders his favourite Dutch products online!
For more information about Dutch sports and leisure, check out our ‘Sports and Leisure in the Netherlands’ blog.
Prefer to read this article in Dutch? Then why not visit our sister blog, Heimwee.info, specifically intended for Dutch emigrants abroad?