Trends & Features

Red Bull Fierste Ljepper celebrates oldest Netherlands extreme sport

The ancient sport of ‘fierljeppen’ (pole vault long jumping) dates back to the 18th century from Friesland in the north of the Netherlands when farmers would use wooden poles to cross water ditches.

Athletes sprint towards a pole standing vertically in the water, jump on and climb as high as possible then – whilst hanging on – they drift forward and land as far as possible in an effort to win.

There is an official Dutch competition, but Red Bull Fierste Ljepper takes the sport to another level with a higher platform (3m instead of 2.3m) and longer vaulting poles (14.5m instead of 13.25m).

The last time the event was staged in 2012, Jaco de Groot and Wendy Helmes were crowned ‘fierste ljepper’ (furthest jumper) in the southern city of Breda with De Groot landing an impressive 21.39m leap and Helmes 16.58m to take top spot in a strong women’s field.

This time around on Sunday in Haarlem at the scenic Molen De Adriaan windmill – that burnt down in 1932 and was rebuilt in 2002 – weather conditions were challenging due to unseasonal rain and wind.

In the men’s competition, 29-year-old Rian Baas from Gouda managed to cope with the tricky weather best thanks to a jump of 17.09m that edged out former winner De Groot by just seven centimetres.

Rian Baas in action during the Red Bull Fierste Ljepper in Haarlem, The Netherlands on July 31, 2022.

He revealed: “It wasn’t my best jump, but I managed to cope with the difficult circumstances best. It was slippery due to the rain. I am very happy to be the best here, since the previous winners all are big names. I am proud to be on that list.”

In the women’s event, some of the big names struggled as 19-year-old Demi Groothedde, from Jaarsveld, won with 15.27m. She said: “This is so cool. Given the circumstances I am very happy with my result.”

To complete the day, Dutch students and influencers each had their own competition as the student team of Groningen and the team of presenter Iris Enthoven captured victories.

Header image: Winner Demi Groothedde seen at Red Bull Fierste Ljepper in Haarlem, The Netherlands on July 31, 2022.

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