After double gold in Espoo, Van Daalen is standing tall both on and off the track

  • News
  • After double gold in Espoo, Van Daalen is standing tall both on and off the track

No one could ever accuse the newly crowned double European U23 champion Alida van Daalen’s Olympian mother of being a pushy parent. Quite the opposite. 

Jacqueline Goormachtigh represented the Netherlands in the discus at the 1996 Olympic Games and the 1994 European Athletics Championships, but she kept her athletics achievements under wraps from her children – literally.   

“She kept it quiet because if we wanted to do a sport, she didn’t want us to feel like we were under pressure to do the exact same thing,” explains the gregarious Dutch thrower with the golden arm. 

“I can remember one time when I was seven that I saw a box and I opened it and saw my mum in magazines. And I was like ‘Why are you in magazines?’ But the bell did not ring at all. Later on, I was like ‘Damn, you really did not say that you were an Olympic athlete, why did you lie to me?” She adds with a laugh. 

“I have got the genes,” she acknowledges. “But it was also a coincidence that I do the same events that she did. I never knew she was a pro athlete, so I started track and field just because I needed to do the sport.” 

The young van Daalen’s parents encouraged her and her brother Jarno to try other sports like basketball or volleyball. But they were determined to focus on athletics.   

“When I was 12, I found out I was very good in shot put and a year later, I found I was also good in the discus. That’s how I started rolling and I never stopped since then,” she explains. 

She quickly made an impact on the international stage, collecting European U18 discus silver and shot bronze in 2018, European U20 gold in discus in 2019 and European U20 silver in both discus and shot in 2021. 

Meanwhile her younger sibling Jarno has also won national U18 championships in shot and discus and looks set to represent the Netherlands in the upcoming European Athletics U18 Championships in Jerusalem from 7-10 August.  

Mental health and moving "very out of her comfort zone"

Despite the medals, van Daalen’s progression had stalled, particularly for a growing athlete of such potential. Her discus personal best of 59.15m from August 2020 had survived until June 2023, when she threw 59.96m at the NCAA Championships in Texas. 

Plus, her shot put best of 15.90m from 2020 had only moved on incrementally before she exploded over the 18 metre-line this year. 

But there are good reasons for van Daalen’s career plateau and subsequent revival in 2023 and she is refreshingly candid in explaining why. “For some people, COVID worked out, but for me I got into a dip very badly because of the COVID years,” she says. 

Getty Images 1540810905

“Mentally I wasn’t in a good place. I’m not screaming it from all the buildings. But it’s not a bad thing to confirm I was not in a good place from 2021 to 2022 and I needed to get out of it. I really wanted to start a new chapter in my life. So, I made the biggest step of my life to go very out of my comfort zone and that’s why I chose to go to the United States.” 

Until 2023, the Rotterdam-based athlete had been guided by her mother in the Netherlands, but she made the bold move to switch to the University of Florida in Gainesville, USA. 

The results have been dramatic. As part of the Florida Gators set-up and under coach Eric Werskey, her career has been revitalised. She has massively improved in the shot, regularly exceeding 18 metres, her best being an indoor 18.66m in February.  

Then at the European Athletics U23 Championships in Espoo, she was one of the outstanding athletes - if not the outstanding athlete - of the whole championships, winning the shot with an outdoor best of 18.32m and then the discus with 58.49m, while her mother cheered from the stands. 

“They are all there for you,” she says of her experiences in Florida. “Not only for sport, also for your studies, but also for your mental health and they are really what I needed and missed a little bit in the Netherlands. But I am all good now, I feel amazing.  

“I just started in January, and it has been a rollercoaster since then, because I have been improving a lot with the shot put. It has been a great step for me.” 

Being a role model on and off the track

Standing at 1.90m, van Daalen is walking tall in every sense and looking forward with confidence.  

“I hope I can qualify for the Olympics next year because that has been a goal since I was 16,” she says. “My first goal was Tokyo, but that didn’t work out because of my mental health. For Paris, I am getting pretty ready with the World Championships, I am now almost qualified.  

Although she has clearly inherited her mother’s athleticism and is on track to join her as an Olympian, she is less modest in projecting her status as an international athlete.  

Studying journalism in Florida, she embraces the opportunity to get in front of the camera and use her role model status. She has the skin condition vitiligo, which comes from a lack of pigment in the skin and causes whitened patches. It is a subject she doesn’t shy away from.  

“I already saw myself as a role model for that because a lot of children get it at a young age,” she says. “I got it when I was six and some people get it when they are 40. Some people are still afraid to show that. But I’m like ‘You know what, you are beautiful the way you are.’  

“And also, people see that I am really tall, have vitiligo and have a lot of energy. I hope I can inspire young people or even adults with how I do and hopefully they are not afraid to show the world what vitiligo is. I would feel weird if I didn’t have it anymore. That’s how I hope I can inspire the world.” 

As an athlete who is now clearly very comfortable in her own skin, van Daalen is now embracing the chance to be in the spotlight on the international stage for many years to come. 

Chris Broadbent for European Athletics


Official Partners
Official Partners
Official Partners
Official Partners
Official Partners
Official Partners
Broadcast Partner
Broadcast Partner
Preferred Suppliers
Supporting Hotel
Photography Agency