Sports grant for Esma Staal and Sofie Dokter

After a break due to covid, two Niels Smith sports grants were awarded today.
Esma Staal (left) and Sophie Dokter. Photo Guy Ackermans

The two young talented athletes were presented with a cheque for the sum of 1500 euros during a gathering in Omia. The two are heptathlon competitor Sofie Dokter and handball player Esma Staal. The two were selected by a jury from among ten candidates. The grant is to provide young WUR athletes with some support.

Handball player Esma Staal (20) plays in the premiership with the VZV team of the Noord-Holland village of ‘t Veld. Staal is part of the Young Orange selection of under twenty. Sofie Dokter (19) from Groningen won a gold medal at the Dutch heptathlon championships and represented the Netherlands at the European championships this summer, where she achieved a very decent 13th place.


Those that qualify for the grant may apply. There are 29 top athletes studying at WUR currently. Twenty of these students have been given a NOC*NSF status. The other nine are supported by the NOC*NSF but not funded. They perform at an (inter)national level but in non-Olympic disciplines such as sky running, baseball or marathon skating.  

Former winners

The Niels Smith sports fund was founded in 2010 in honour of WUR alumnus Marianne Remmers’ deceased son. Since 2011, two talents have received a grant every year. Last year no grant was awarded as covid had brought many competitions to a standstill, making it difficult to judge the students’ performance fairly. Dokter and Staal are the sixteenth and seventeenth students to receive the grant.

Among the former winners are cyclist Jan-Willem van Schip and heptathlon athlete Emma Oosterwegel. This year, for the first time, former winners were represented in the jury by Dieuwertje de Wagenaar (dance, 2014) and Krijn Schetters (judo, 2014).

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