Aruba’s ‘trick’ to be among the elite of world sports: “Our strength is human talent”
Juan Antonio Belmar
May 15, 2024

The 33 kilometers long and 8 kilometers wide of the small island of Aruba are a great challenge for the local sports authorities to show the world that its size and 107,000 inhabitants are not an impediment to cross borders with a work that was built at the time by Nicole Hoevertsz, former president of the Aruban Olympic Committee and current vice president of the International Olympic Committee. Since 2021, that role in Aruba is played by Wanda Broeksema, who will extend her mandate until 2025 and with whom SportsIn talks about what it’s like to try to hunt talent in this Caribbean corner of the world.

What is the balance of these two and a half years of governance at the head of the COA?

First of all, it has been a unique experience to lead the COA, because it has several edges, all with a learning process, but also, to collect the experiences of previous presidents. The history of the COA does not begin with me, I am just another link to continue growing. We have advanced on several fronts, we implemented a financial strategy that allows us to prioritize the economic investment in the athletes’ sports preparation, therefore, we are supporting the medalists and finalists that can be between the fourth and eighth place. Then, we went in search of strategic allies, who can contribute and inject resources such as ArubaBank. We signed international cooperation agreements with other NOC’s to take their experiences and development in sports to strengthen our growth. Furthermore, we dared to pay medal bonuses, they are small values, but we took the step and the athletes are grateful for it.

Then, we restructured the Sports Direction, two new departments were organized: methodological technical and financial technical, both are intercommunicated, including in a criterion of participation in the different sporting events of the Olympic cycle; from 1-8 place to position ourselves in the general table of the medal table.

Also, there is a direct dialogue and follow-up with all the federations that are part of the COA, their role is vital in our operation. In addition, most of our elite athletes train and do their training camps in Europe and the United States. And, at the level of cooperation with Curaçao, their athletes can compete under the Aruban flag in international competitions.

And finally, our achievements in this Olympic cycle 2021-2024, have been very successful, from the Junior Pan American Games in Cali (2021), to the Pan American Games in Santiago (2023), we have a total of 33 medals; 11 gold, 14 silver and 8 bronze.

Aruba is known in the leadership world for the sustained work of Nicole Hoevertsz, what does Nicole mean within the Aruban Olympic Committee?

She is the great driver and motivator of the COA, she is a source of pride, not only for our Olympic Committee, but also for Aruba in general. Her leadership, the passion she brings to everything she does, motivates all of us to continue on the same path. You know, it never ceases to amaze me how she is valued in the leadership world, she is an extremely simple woman, but very direct, she reflects the character of her roots, she is by vocation, she comes from swimming, she was an Olympic athlete and that experience I feel that brought her much closer to the reality that athletes, coaches and leaders live. I reiterate, to have an IOC vice-president in our board, is to applaud and tell her, thank you very much for always being with our Aruban Olympic Committee.

Aruba is a country with great attributes and a tourist development par excellence, in fact, it is the main source of income that the island has. Do you feel that sport is important in Aruba?

Aruba is a country that has a lot of potential and is building a path towards high performance sport, even though it is small. With a good sports performance structure we can continue to improve and make our country much more visible at the national and international level. We have to continue working hand in hand with all stakeholders, especially with families so that they allow their children to practice sports and that, despite all the vicissitudes and the characteristics of sport, they manage to make the national teams, whether they are high performance athletes or people who can understand that physical activity will always help you.

Wanda, your institution transcends beyond what you can measure, when we talk about Aruba it is serious and sustained work over time. What is the secret of this progress of the COA in relation to other countries in the region?

Undoubtedly, the greatest strength is the quality of the human talent that works in the sports sector such as athletes, parents, coaches, leaders, Federations, sponsors such as ATA, the Government of Aruba – SSA, Lotto pa Deporte, Aruban private enterprise, and the Aruba Sports Association.

Wanda, your institution transcends beyond what you can measure, when we talk about Aruba it is serious and sustained work over time. What is the secret of this progress of the COA in relation to other countries in the region?

Undoubtedly, the greatest strength is the quality of the human talent working in the sports sector such as athletes, parents, coaches, leaders, Federations, sponsors such as ATA, the Government of Aruba – SSA, Lotto pa Deporte, private company Aruba Aloe, EY, Totto… but I want to highlight the work of the athletes and their coaches who are the determining factor of any sports project, they are the ones who give everything day by day to represent our country well.

Also the administrative and technical structure of our organization has allowed in the last cycle to improve sports results, despite the economic limitations compared to other countries in the region.

How is the COA financed?

The Aruban Olympic Committee, like the vast majority of national Olympic committees in the world, is financed through international stakeholders such as Olympic Solidarity, Panam Sports; and national stakeholders such as the Government of Aruba, SSA, Lotto pa Deporte, ATA, Aruban private companies such as EY, Totto, Aruba Aloe.

I want to take advantage of SportsIn to call on the different public and private entities to support the Aruban Olympic Committee and make viable and sustainable over time the development of high performance sport in the short, medium and long term.

We are going to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, today the world is looking at the French capital and all energies are focused on that country. How many athletes have qualified today?

Of course, today we have qualified 3 athletes of which 2 are in sailing (windsurfing and ILCA 7) and one in swimming with an A mark and, a woman in additional swimming and with open expectations to qualify 1 or 2 more athletes, I mean cycling (BMX) and shooting.

Mikel Schreuders, from Aruba, will add three Olympic Games with those of Paris 2024

What motivates you to be at the head of the COA and what are your dreams in the near future?

Good question Juan Antonio and I thank you. I am motivated by what the sport generates. In an intrinsic way there is the passion for sports, we aspire to improve the administrative, financial and technical structure of the Committee and to be more competitive in Central America and the continent. And, the truth is, I can’t lie to you, I have many dreams, but I learned with life that each dream is a moment in your life and you have to go step by step. That does not mean that in that journey you can be able to add more dreams and goals to strengthen the work at the grassroots, in the youth, to have the active participation of women in more leading roles and that we are able to read what athletes, coaches and federated leaders expect from us and I do recognize that we are working to achieve our dream of winning an Olympic medal and we want it to be in the medium term.

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