In honor of the Flying Dutchman, Epke Zonderland, turning 34 years old today, we’re taking a look back at some of his career highlights, as well as some fun facts that you may not have known about the Olympic champion and reigning European champion on high bar.
As far as his path to Tokyo goes, Zonderland currently leads the Individual Apparatus World Cup high bar rankings with the highest total possible: 90 points. Zonderland is in a great position to earn an individual Olympic berth and try for Olympic gold once more, but Japan’s Hidetaka Miyachi could play spoiler if his country were to allow him to compete at the Doha World Cup next spring. Doha is the final event in the individual World Cup series.
2019 European Championships (Szczecin) | Gold | High Bar
At the most recent European Championships in 2019, Zonderland continue his high bar dominance, earning individual gold on the apparatus. Zonderland has gone on to earn eight European championships medals, including two medals on parallel bars.
2017 World Championships (Montreal) | Silver | High Bar
Zonderland has earned six total medals at World Championships–all on high bar. Three gold and three silver, all routines are high-flying masterpieces, but when Zonderland’s name is mentioned in conversation, this routine almost always comes to mind. The save of a lifetime!
2012 London Olympics | Gold | High Bar
Zonderland has competed in three Olympic Games, including Beijing 2008, London 2012, and Rio 2016. His shining moment at the Games was obviously becoming Olympic champion in 2012 with an incredible 16.533. Some gymnastics fans say this is the best high bar routine ever.
In 2008, Zonderland finished seventh in the high bar final. In 2016, he was dealing with a finger injury prior to the games. He qualified in third before falling during the high bar event final and, ultimately, failing to defend his Olympic title.
Flying Dutchman Fun Facts
- He started gymnastics at the age of 4.
- Hobbies: Surfing, sailing, speed skating, skiing, cooking, listening to music, and playing the guitar.
- In addition to being an athlete, Zonderland is a doctor. He studied medicine at the University of Groningen in his home country of the Netherlands. After 12 years of schooling while also training, he became a doctor in 2018.
- Zonderland is married to wife, Linda. Together they share son, Bert, who was born in 2018, just before World Championships in Doha, Qatar. If Bert hadn’t arrived prior to Worlds, Zonderland would’ve not traveled to Doha and, ultimately, wouldn’t have become the 2018 World champion. Read that story here.
- He speaks Dutch and English.
- His brothers Herre and Johan also represented the Netherlands in gymnastics. Herre competed at five World Championships, and Johan participated in the 2004 European Championships.
- His gymnastics heroes are Hiroyvki Tomita (JPN) and Alexei Nemov (RUS).
- In 2012, he was appointed Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau by the Dutch government. He now carries the letters RON in the formal writing of his name, representing the honor.
- He became the first Dutch man to win an individual Olympic medal in artistic gymnastics when he won gold at the 2012 London Games.