News - June 7, 2012

Not quite

People say I'm a born optimist, but this time I can't help but have my doubts. Let me come straight to the point: I don't think we are going to be the next European champion.

We'll make it through the group stage alright (that's being only a little bit optimistic), but we'll bite the dust in the semi-final. And that's not the end of my troubled premonitions. Suppose Robert Gesink comes a cropper while descending Le col du Tourmalet in the Tour de France? And suppose Ankie van Grunsven's horse rears during the dressage final in London, having pirouetted just a little too far?
I have been niggled by this 'not quite' feeling on a couple of occasions in recent months. Together with researchers of the Radboud University Nijmegen, we wrote a splendid NWO proposal. We sailed through the first round with flying colours but eventually, when it came to the funding, we fell by the wayside. It is a tough competition, the battle for money. For some time now we have been trying to land a project for research on European vegetation, but time and again we meet with rejection. It feels like we are being pushed from pillar to post.
Not quite. It applies so often, to sportspeople and scientists alike. Hanging above my desk is a poster from the 1928 Olympic Games, which were held in Amsterdam. Grim-faced, his fists balled, an athlete dressed in spotless white is running... Ach, if we lose, there are always the wise words of Pierre De Goubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics, which I won't repeat here... because I'm totally fed up with it all, in advance.