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Foto: Sara Kerklaan

Field hockey player Derck de Vilder (25) going to the Olympics: “Studies on hold”

Wessel Wierda,
9 juli 2024 - 09:37

UvA student Derck de Vilder is going to play field hockey in the Summer Olympics in Paris, which start July 26th. How did he secure a place in the selection and what does he expect from the event? 

About four months ago, UvA student and top hockey player Derck de Vilder (25) is sitting relaxed behind a cappuccino on Roeterseiland. From behind the window at the coffee shop Lebkov and Sons, he has a view of the many students rushing to their lectures this Wednesday afternoon. It is a life De Vilder will temporarily leave behind, he decides. 
Although he was still combining his bachelor’s degree in Economics and Business Economics with his career as a field hockey player, the chance to participate in the Summer Olympics, which start July 26th, changed things completely for him. Nothing should be left to chance anymore, he realizes, and his focus would be entirely on gaining a place in the selection for the Games. So his newly started master’s degree in Business Economics will have to be temporarily put on hold. 
At that point, however, that still applied just as much to himself. However frustrating it may be, whether De Vilder will be allowed to go to Paris is far from certain. Never before has he competed in the Games. He narrowly missed out on the last Summer Olympics in Tokyo, which were postponed to 2021 because of corona. At the same time, he participated last year in the World Championship and the European Championship on the Dutch national team, which the team won spectacularly. Footage shows De Vilder proudly speaking to NOS, gold medal in hand. 

Derck de Vilder

Born: 23rd November 1998, Amsterdam 
UvA study: Business Economics 
Sports: Hockey 
Goal in Paris: To become champion 
Best performance: Gold European Championship in 2023, bronze World Championship in 2023 

Boyhood dream 
But the Summer Olympics is an event in another league, De Vilder states firmly. “It’s the highest level a field hockey player can reach.” A boy’s dream. On top of that, the maximum number of field hockey players in the selection for the Olympics is smaller than at a European Championship or World Cup. Not 18, but only 16 field hockey players will be selected to go to the Games. Is he confident that the national coach will call him up this time? 
His answer is thoughtful and sober, like a consummate professional with years of media experience: “I’ll just try to focus on my game and then we’ll see who the coach chooses.” Moments later, after a sip of his cappuccino, he lets slip that he is closer to it than he was three years ago. The chances are there and his motivation will not be lacking. 
De Vilder says he is going for it one hundred percent, something that is evident in his training program. He has scheduled extra training sessions, both at his Utrecht professional club Kampong, where he is under contract, and with the Dutch national team. He also does more stretching exercises and visits the physiotherapist more often. All to be as fit as possible in Paris. 

Foto: Sara Kerklaan

Nevertheless, he is wary of overexertion and injury. Last winter he suffered a serious back injury, from which he has since recovered. But holding back in training to avoid injury? De Vilder wants no part of it. “I have the feeling that it becomes more dangerous if you hold back. Of course, a ball can always hit your hand, but I try to think about that as little as possible.” More sobering, he says: “I’ll just try to play my normal game. Then I’ll be fine.” 
A few months later, De Vilder sits with his mother, brother, and his brother’s girlfriend behind his laptop. It’s a little before five. Before long, the national coach will announce which field hockey players will be selected to go to the Summer Olympics in Paris. The tension in the De Vilder home is rising. Refresh, no message - refresh, no message yet. Only after several feverish attempts does the redeeming e-mail from the national coach appear. De Vilder has been selected - he gets to go to Paris! He immediately calls his girlfriend to tell her the happy news.  

Foto: Sara Kerklaan

He is one of the six rookies. The other 10 players selected, such as Seve van Ass (225 international matches) and Thierry Brinkman (173 international matches), already have one or two Games behind them. With some of them, De Vilder (59 international matches) looks ahead to his time in Paris in the following days. Gradually, this gives him a better idea of what it is like to be at the Games and stay in the Olympic Village. “The dining hall seems to be huge,” says De Vilder. “It all seems so incredibly grand.” 
Besides, Paris is relatively close. “Left and right I already hear that many people are planning to go there. I think many Dutch people will go to Paris to watch. That’s so fun. I hope it will be a great event.” And his studies? He expects to pick them up again afterwards. Practically speaking: “Working and playing professional field hockey do not go together, but studying and playing field hockey do.” He may pursue another master’s degree, more in the direction of finance. But, oh well, worrying about his studies can be done later. The first thing to be done is to win gold at the Olympics. 
The Summer Olympics in Paris will take place from July 26th to August 11th. The full selection of the Dutch National Hockey Team can be found here