Sat, Sep 02, 2017 - Page 4 News List

Taipei Universiade: Fans swarm Dutch water polo team

‘ROCK STARS’:Even before they arrived on Aug. 15, the men’s team created quite a stir when the Dutch trade office posted a photograph of the team in their Speedos

Staff writer, with CNA

Water polo might not be a popular sport in Taiwan, but the Dutch men’s water polo team made quite a splash.

The team, along with the Dutch swimming team, on Thursday visited Baoan Temple in Taipei’s Datong District (大同), where they were greeted by a swarm of fans and reporters.

Water polo team captain Robin Lindhout said the temple was one of the places the group had on their list to visit, adding: “It’s amazing to be here, with all the culture of Taiwan and Taipei.”

Tour guides walked the teams through the temple, explaining the purpose of the incense sticks and divination blocks.

Many of the water polo players were in awe of the temple’s architecture, calling it beautiful.

Team member Bilal Gbadamassi told reporters it was the first time he has visited a Taiwanese temple and that he would like to see more.

The presence of the photographers did not detract from the experience for the water polo team, who in their half-month stay in Taiwan have been made to feel like rock stars, Gbadamassi said.

The team became famous even before arriving in the country on Aug. 15 when the Netherlands Trade and Investment Office in Taiwan posted a photograph of them in their Speedos on the office’s Facebook page.

Commenting on their newfound fame, the team captain said it was a new, pleasant experience, because “at home, it’s not like this.”

“The way things are with all the cameras and all the people welcoming us, it’s even more special,” Lindhout said.

As the team learned about Taiwanese culture during their visits to Baoan Temple and Xiahai City God Temple on Thursday, they also reflected on the just-concluded Taipei Summer Universiade.

The water polo team performed “pretty good,” with five wins and two losses, coach Robin van Galen said.

Many of the matches were very close, Lindhout said.

“It was a close match against Italy in the quarter-finals, and it could have ended up either way... Japan was the same. We could have won, but we lost,” he said.

On ranking seventh in water polo at this year’s Games, Lindhout said: “Seventh isn’t bad, but it’s not great.”

“It’s also below what we expected. We came here to fight for the medals, but unfortunately we have to deal with position No. 7,” he added.

The team yesterday returned home, where they will soon resume practice and school.

Their Universiade experience will motivate them to work even harder, Lindhout said.

“The goal has always been to go to the Olympics” and big tournaments like the Universiade will help them reach Olympic standard, he said.

Dutch swimmer Kira Toussaint has her eye on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The 23-year-old took gold in the women’s 50m backstroke at the Universiade.

Toussaint is no stranger to the Olympics, having competed in last year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

She said that her goal for Tokyo is to “do better than the last time” and “make the Olympic final.”

On her win, Toussaint said she was really happy “when I looked at the scoreboard and saw a ‘1’ next to my name.”

“It felt like it finally all came together in that one race,” she said, adding that she was really surprised at her victory because she was not “really doing very well” at other meets.

Toussaint said that she wanted to go out and celebrate her win on her final night in Taiwan, before the two teams headed home yesterday.

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