Irene Schouten, Max Verstappen crowned top Dutch athletes in Amsterdam
Speed skater Irene Schouten was chosen as Sportswoman of the Year, and Formula 1 driver Max Verstappen was named Sportsman of the Year at the national annual Sports Gala held in Amsterdam on Wednesday evening.
Short track trainer Jeroen Otter also won top honors as the country’s best coach. Former Dutch women’s national football trainer Sarina Wiegman was awarded best coach by the BBC for her work with England’s national football team.
Dominant Irene Schouten takes top honors after winning 4 medals in Beijing
Irene Schouten, the 30-year-old skater from Noord-Holland, was the undisputed queen of the Beijing Winter Olympics last winter. She took home three gold medals and a bronze medal.
She received the most votes from her fellow top athletes and the professional jury taking part in the ceremony, and received the accompanying Jaap Eden Award. Former professional footballer Ruud Gullit presented the award during the gala in AFAS Live.
Schouten succeeds athlete Sifan Hassan, who was not nominated this year. Two-time Olympic short track champion Suzanne Schulting and cycling world champion Annemiek van Vleuten were the other two nominees.
Schouten was practically unbeatable last skating season and showed her dominance in the long distances in Beijing with gold in the 3,000 meters, 5,000 meters and mass start. Her bronze came in the team pursuit. She became the most successful Dutch athlete ever at a single Winter Games with her presence on the podium. A month after the Games, to her own surprise, she also won the world all-round title.
The professional jury had difficulty choosing three nominees this year. There was no unanimous decision. For example, three-time European athletics champion Femke Bol and skater Ireen Wüst, the most successful Dutch Olympian ever, dropped out.
"This means a lot, because what those other athletes have achieved is also not normal," said Schouten. Ninety percent of the people around me thought I should do things differently, but I believed in it."
Verstappen elected Sportsman of the Year for the third time
Race car driver Max Verstappen has been chosen as Sportsman of the Year for the third time. The 25-year-old Limburger won the world title in Formula 1 this year for the second straight season. He received the most votes in the election from his fellow athletes and the professional jury.
The Red Bull Racing driver won the election against two other nominated athletes, multiple track cycling world champion Harrie Lavreysen and Olympic speed skating champion Thomas Krol.
Verstappen himself was not present at the Sports Gala. His younger sister Victoria was in Amsterdam to represent him, and accepted the accompanying Jaap Eden Award on his behalf. It was presented by skating icon Ireen Wüst.
Verstappen was previously Sportsman of the Year in 2016 and 2021. In 2016 he was the first Dutch winner of a Formula 1 race, and was also the youngest ever F1 driver to win a race. Last year he received the honorary title for accomplishing his first world title in the premier class of motorsport.
This year he extended his title with a record fifteen grand prix victories. In addition, together with his Mexican teammate Sergio Pérez, he gave the Red Bull racing team the Constructors' Championship.
After the ceremony, a video followed in which numerous drivers and former drivers from Formula 1 congratulated Verstappen, including Jackie Stewart, Nelson Piquet, Mark Webber, Nico Hülkenberg and Damon Hill.
Short track trainer Otter chosen as Coach of the Year
Short track trainer Jeroen Otter was chosen as Coach of the Year at the Sports Gala. He celebrated successes with the women who took part at the Winter Games in Beijing, including gold for Suzanne Schulting in the 1,000 meters and gold for the relay team in the 3,000 meters relay.
After the Beijing Games, Otter decided to take a sabbatical. He has been employed by the skating association since 2010 and under his leadership the Netherlands has become one of the leading countries in short track speed skating. Otter called the relay team's gold his "most beautiful title" at the Games.
The 58-year-old Otter had been nominated before, but now saw his years of dedication to Dutch short track rewarded with the top Coach Award. He received the most votes from his fellow coaches and the professional jury and won the election of the two other nominees: national rowing coach Eelco Meenhorst and football coach Sarina Wiegman.
Wiegman coach of the year in England
However, Sarina Wiegman was named coach of the year during the BBC Sports Personality of the Year held in England. The former Oranje national coach won the European Championship in women's football with England this year.
"I feel honored, but also appropriately humbled,” she said to the BBC after winning the award. "I never could have accomplished this without an amazing group of players. And we had a great staff. It was awesome. I’m lucky to work with these players."
Wiegman also won the European Championship one time as coach of the Dutch women’s football team.
Reporting by ANP