Women's Sport

Simone van de Kraats: Dutch Waterpolo’s Golden Shooter

After her ferocious performance at the 2020 Olympics, Dutch waterpolo sniper Simone van de Kraats has her sights set on gold in Paris 2024. SportsBoom talks with Simone in an exclusive interview.

Wade McElwain
Wade McElwain

Last Updated: 2024-03-07

Umaima Saeed

Simone van de Kraats is a 23 year old Dutch water polo phenomenon, having won gold at the 2023 World Championships and competed at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Now, she has her sights set on the 2024 Paris Olympics, just months away. In an exclusive interview with SportsBoom, van de Kraats discusses her incredible waterpolo journey, recent success, and the goals of the Dutch waterpolo team heading into Paris. 

Early Swimmer

For Simone van De Kraats, the journey into water polo began with a stroke of serendipity, as she recounts, "my parents met in the swimming pool...they pushed me into the water and I was playing there...that's where the story started." This chance introduction ignited a passion that would propel her towards unprecedented success in the sport.

Simone's immersion in water polo was further fuelled by her innate talents and relentless work ethic. As she reminisces, "I started competition swimming when I was five...and then I started playing, shooting...I have really long arms, so this is an advantage as well." This unique blend of physical attributes and technical skill laid the foundation for her ascent in the water polo ranks.

Club Play

Van de Kraats knows the intense preparation required, balancing her Spanish club play with training for the biggest sporting event in the world:

"Right now I'm in Spain and I need to perform with the club. They have a lot of goals as well...And then you go back and you have six weeks to prepare for the Olympics and be mentally and physically fresh. So it's every day trying to balance this, what's my energy level, what can I do today? How can I push myself but also hold back when I need to? It's really a challenge.”

Game-Changing Offensive Weapon

In the pool, Van de Kraats has established herself as one of the most prolific and feared scorers in all of waterpolo. At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, she poured in a staggering 28 goals in just 7 games, spearheading the Dutch attack.

Her ability to "continuously search for better options and more opportunities" while leveraging her long arms makes her a constant scoring threat that can change the complexion of a game in an instant. No wonder she took home the prestigious 2023 World Total Player award.
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All About Balance

Part of what keeps van de Kraats grounded and focused is having other interests beyond water polo. She is working on a master's degree in management science, which "challenges her mental stability" and keeps her brain active outside the pool. This well-rounded mentality allows her to recharge and approach her intense training with a fresh perspective.

Additionally, cutting-edge nutrition technology plays a pivotal role in Van de Kraats' ability to perform at an elite level. "During games, we use quick-digestible gels and energy gummies, some with added caffeine for an extra boost when we need it. Proper fueling is absolutely crucial for maintaining our intensity.”

A Digital Edge

In an era defined by technological innovation, water polo has embraced advancements to enhance performance and optimise gameplay. Simone highlights the role of video analysis and VAR (Video Assistant Referee) in refining strategy and decision-making on the field.

"We have a video analyst...putting labels on the specific opponent...where they prefer to shoot, how the goalie is reacting," Simone explains, emphasising the importance of leveraging data and insights to gain a competitive edge. This integration of technology underscores the evolving landscape of sports and the relentless pursuit of excellence.

The International Scene

As a member of the Netherlands national team, Simone has navigated the turbulent waters of international competition with grace and resilience. From fierce battles against perennial powerhouses like Hungary and Spain to triumphant moments on the podium, she has experienced the full spectrum of emotions that define the water polo journey.

"I think that we are really playing as a team...working for each other in good and in bad times," Simone reflects, highlighting the camaraderie and collective spirit that fuels their pursuit of excellence.
In terms of who is the global powerhouse in Women’s Waterpolo at the moment, Van de Kraats is humble in her estimation:

"If you're looking at the waterpolo countries that are on top right now, it's like, there are so many. If you're looking at the last worlds, you have the Netherlands and Spain and Italy on third place. Now the Europeans of last January were in the Netherlands and Spain as well. And third place was Greece, and now on the world it was America and Hungary in the final. So like the top of waterpolo is so big. In the end we cannot really say countries that we are more concentrated about it because we have to focus on them all.”

What she does emphasise, however, is that the Dutch have not yet reached their peak:
"I feel like we're doing this really good, but then we are also still growing in this. So that's why my feeling is that we are only becoming better at every tournament.”

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I would say we are playing against America and we are winning, in the last one and a half minute by one

Simone on her Paris Gold medal game prediction

Golden Visions of Paris

When asked to visualise the gold medal match at the Paris Olympics, Van de Kraats does not lack for confidence or belief:
"Then I would say we are playing against America and we are winning, in the last one and a half minute by one."

With her elite scoring prowess, unshakeable determination, and the immense talent and growth mindset of the Dutch team, that vision of capturing Olympic gold is well within the realm of possibility. All of the intense physical and mental preparation is building towards one goal - for Simone Van de Kraats and the Netherlands to reach the pinnacle in Paris.
With such momentum and a squad of veteran players behind them, it’s easy to see why the Dutch are favourites for waterpolo gold in Paris 2024. 

Wade McElwain
Wade McElwainSenior Sports Writer

Wade McElwain is our Mr. NFL, a bona fide North American sports nut who knows about NBA, NHL, MLB, PGA plus MMA boxing and more. Originally from Canada, Wade is also an international award-winning stand-up comedian; host of numerous TV game shows; and a TV producer & writer. He also runs NFL in London-the largest NFL fan group in Europe, and has hosted NFL events at Wembley and around the world. Yes, he lives alone and does nothing but watch sports.