Athlete of the year

Winning for Sjoerd

With a decisive return, Job van Eijk (24) brings the final to an end. He is the surprise winner of the TAM Open 2016. A little bit later, he is hugging his father who came over from Apeldoorn. The two are unable to hold back their tears. The room suddenly goes silent.
Text and photos by Koen Marée / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

Job van Eijk has been nominated ‘ACLO Athlete of the Year’ because of his fantastic performance on the tennis court.

He has had a difficult year: in April, his little brother Sjoerd went missing after a night out. A week later, his body was found in the water near the Trompkade.

Tennis helped him through this difficult period. He even won the TAM Open which took place in July of 2016.

If he wins the award, he will spend the prize money on a memorial for Sjoerd.

Reading time: 5 minutes (1,065 words)

Both father and son are crying for Sjoerd, Job’s deceased little brother. The Hanze student went missing after a night out. A week later, his body was found in the water near the Trompkade. At the tennis courts, everyone knows what the Van Eijk family is going through.

Flashback from his winning moment in July to Saturday, 30 April: Job gets a call from his brother Sjoerd’s roommates. Sjoerd has failed to return home after celebrating his 21st birthday. ‘Every student fails to make it back home sometimes’, is Job’s first thought. But when he hears that the roommates have called everyone else – including hospitals and the police – he has a sinking feeling. ‘Shit, something’s wrong.’

He spends a week in uncertainty. ‘I thought to myself: if he’s not back by Sunday, he’s gone.’ It is not until the following Saturday, 7 May, that Sjoerd’s body is found in the canal near the Trompkade. ‘That was awful. Just really difficult.’

From happy to sad

Job, who just like his brother has been playing tennis since he was a boy and is a member of TAM, decides to pause his studies and take some time off. ‘I started playing tennis a lot. When you’re working out, you’re not thinking about anything else. If I were to study, my thoughts would keep wandering. Being on the court made me feel safe.’

The TAM Open arrives. This is a prestigious tennis tournament which counts for the national rankings. Players from all over the country come to Groningen. Traditionally, the students party all week, but Job is taking the tournament seriously. Because he collected enough points in student tennis club GSTC’s ranking tournament where he played on a wild card, he is automatically qualified for this tournament.

He survives round after round. All the training from the weeks before is paying off. In the last set of the final, Job defeats his opponent 6 to 1. ‘During the final in particular, there was just no room for emotions. I was extremely focused during the entire game. The only thing I can remember is the last point. When I scored, I was happy for a split second. But I immediately felt sad again. Milestones like that are something you want to share. At those times, it really sucks that he’s gone.’

Beer athlete

By now, he has managed to get back on track. ‘After the summer I was kind of sick of tennis, but the sport really got me through these tough times. I did an internship in Utrecht for the past six months, and I was living with my parents. It was really good to spend time together and be there during the month of December, for example. It’s the holidays as well as the end of the year, but the impact of something like this extends beyond the calendar year. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over it.’

His unique performance at the TAM Open is one of the reasons for his ‘ACLO Athlete of the Year’ nomination. For Job, who is ranked 61st in the national tennis ranking, it was a big surprise: ‘I’m really grateful to the jury, especially considering who else is nominated. Edwin Dasselaar runs triathlons and Iron Mans. I have so much respect for him. And I saw Esmé Stollenga in the top ten of the 1,000 metre race at the National Skating Championships.’

‘They are true athletes’, says Job. Is he not a true athlete? ‘Another club member put it quite nicely: ‘Job, you are the Roger Federer of beer athletes’. I’m a fine tennis player and I’ve got the discipline to train six times a week, but at the end of the day, it’s all about fun. I’m really looking forward to the gala where everyone will be dressed up. I hope to be able to talk to Esmé and Edwin.’

‘I think the award comes with prize money. Last week, my parents and I paid a visit to the mayor and we offered a social sofa, one of those stone mosaic benches, to the city in memory of Sjoerd. If I do win, I will spend the money on that. The municipality is going to check if there is room near the Trompkade. Because Sjoerd was incredibly knowledgeable about basketball and had his own blog, so the design will definitely include a basketball player.’


ACLO Sports award 2017

Every year, the ACLO nominates three athletes and three trainers/coaches for the sports award. The awards are handed out at a gala, which will take place on 17 February in Huize Maas. Here is an overview of the nominees:

Athlete of the Year

In addition to Job van Eijk, Edwin Dasselaar and Esmé Stollenga are also vying for the award. Triathlete Dasselaar plays for Tritanium and is in the First Triathlon Division. On 31 July, he completed his first Iron Man, which consists of almost four kilometres of swimming, 180 kilometres of cycling, and a marathon. His time was 10:25:30. After years of physical discomfort and extensive back surgery, Stollenga entered the ranks of Dutch top skaters. Recently, the sprinter crushed her personal 500 and 1000 metres records.

Sports team of the Year

The Gyas women coxless four won the bronze medal at the World Championship under 23. Just like the number one and two teams, the women broke the previous world record. They also went on to be the Dutch champions under 23. The female volleyball players at Veracles got to the national cup’s quarter final and achieved a victory in the First Division without losing a single home game. The women from basketball club De Groene Uilen became student champions for the second year in a row and participated in the European student championship.

ACLO coach/trainer of the Year

Because of her performance as a coach for, among other teams, the award-winning Gyas women, Emma Corbijn van Willenswaard had already been named ‘Gyas coach of the year’. Now she is nominated for a more prestigious award. Her competition is fitness instructor Mayke Bosman, who manages to push every ACLO athlete to do their utmost best with her enthusiasm and fanaticism. Kaj Reker, the third nominee, successfully coaches the women of De Groene Uilen. Last year, the team became champions in the promotion division, retaining their national student title.


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