Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The sad story of Dutch Sportswoman, Verona van de Leur who went from grace to grass

"When you're the best in your country, everyone expects something from you."

What the Netherlands didn't expect was for former Sportswoman of the Year Verona van de Leur to sue her parents, live on the streets, spend time behind bars and sign up to a career in the p.o.r.n industry.

De Leur, 34, was the golden girl of gymnastics when she burst on to the scene aged 14 after winning two junior European medals.

Two years later her profile rocketed as she won five European Championship medals, three World Cup final medals and a silver at the World Championships.

At the age of just 16, Verona joined a long list of icons after being crowned the Dutch Sportswoman of the Year but with success comes expectation, pressure and money.

Speaking to SunSport, she said: "At eight or nine, winning a medal is like a gift. Everyone is proud, parents, friends, grandparents and you were special in a way so it's always a good feeling.

"When it goes on and you're on the podium for the first time then the pressure starts.

"When you're not on the podium you get all the hate and being told you're not good enough. Then it became an obsession, not just for me but for everyone around me.

"You get sponsors, contracts and it's a big deal for everyone. You have to start pleasing everyone."

Born in Gouda, Verona was brought up by loving parents and a sister who supported her gymnastics career from the age of five.

It was her parents who looked after her finances and contracts while she was putting in gruelling hours in a bid to fulfil her dream of making the Olympics in 2004.

But her rise to the top quickly came crashing down when injury dashed her hopes of making the games in Athens before later realising her father had spent £5,000 of her own money during a visit to Las Vegas.

Verona, who has released the book 'Simply Verona', added: "My parents had the card of my bank account and they paid all the finances.

"For me, nothing changed, it was the same school, same training but I know my parents had a better life. A little less pressure for them because of the money, of course, I didn't get much.

"I was getting tens of thousands of euros every year and even injured they helped me throughout my entire career before quitting."

That was just the beginning and 2008 sparked a complete U-turn in her career after she decided to quit athletics before filing a short law-suit against her parents.

"I think in the last year of my career I was asking for money but I wasn't getting a clear answer. I just thought well it's my dad I don't want to have an argument he knows what he's doing.

"When I quit they didn't accept it and he came back with all these arguments.

"He came up with all kinds of excuses but when I saw some of the papers I knew there was a lot wrong then I realised all the money I should have had was spent.

"Money is a big drive for them but it wasn't for me. With money you find out more about people.

"I don't know who my own parents are. You look back to the gymnastics and all the pushing and what is important. Was it for your daughter or just the bank account? You feel used in a way."

After a lengthy court battle, Verona was later awarded a settlement from her father in the region of £81,000 paid in installments.

It has been ten years since she last had contact with her family and during that time her life continued to spiral.

Along with her boyfriend and before receiving her settlement, the little money Verona had quickly ran out forcing her to live in her car for two years.

Shoplifting food from supermarkets to live, Verona had a moment of madness when she blackmailed a couple who were having an affair and asked for 1,000 euros.

She said: "We spent the little money we had on places to stay but it all went and I didn't have a job and we thought we can sleep in the car for one night and we will see tomorrow.

"From one day went two days, two to three and then it was two years.

"It was living by day. In the winter it was the hardest you don't even know if you will wake up.

"You just eat in supermarkets if there's something for free but if there's not you just have to take it.

"I'm not proud of it. I never thought years before that this was what I wanted to do.

"The blackmail just kind of overcame me. I was just taking pictures and it happened in front of me.

"I just confronted this woman and when she asked if I was blackmailing her I said 'yes and I want some money for it'.

"The money was needed but I didn't get anything and I thought that was it.

"But she went to the police with my number plate and my description and they ended up arresting me.

"I regret it in a way but I still want to confront her and tell her what she did was wrong. But I needed the money at the time. I would not put myself in that situation again."

Verona spent 72 days in jail and with the opportunity to turn over a new leaf, she was approached by a company to join the p3rn industry.

Admitting that the pay was much better than gymnastics, she and her boyfriend took the plunge where she remained in the business for eight years.

She said: "The erotic business wasn't a decision, it was more of an opportunity for me.

"I was coming from much worse so for me it was a big step.

"Obviously I didn't think as a child it was what I wanted to do but I didn't care.

"I didn't have to look for family and friends for their approval. The people around me were accepting me for who I am and my choices.

"First I had a contract as a webcam girl and then one or two months later me and my boyfriend had our own business but we only did things together.

"He's my photographer and he's my actor. That was a huge relief for me because otherwise I could not work in this industry.

"We both lived on the streets and so we both have been through the same. I enjoyed my work. I can look back on eight good years."