Professional volleyball player who was jailed for raping a 12-year-old girl set to compete in Paris Olympics

By Charlie Sawyer

Published Jun 27, 2024 at 11:47 AM

Reading time: 1 minute

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Beach volleyball player Steven van de Velde, who was jailed in 2016 for raping a 12-year-old girl is due to represent the Netherlands at the upcoming 2024 Paris Summer Olympics. The 29-year-old was sentenced to four years in prison at the time, after admitting to three counts of rape against a child, but only ended up serving 12 months.

According to the BBC, Van de Velde, who was 19 at the time of the crime, met his victim on Facebook and then travelled from Amsterdam to the UK to meet and sexually assault the girl at an address in Milton Keynes. The crime allegedly took place in August 2014.

As verified by multiple reports, the court heard that the volleyball player was aware of the girl’s age, having had conversations on various social networking sites. Van de Velde then went to the girl’s home when her mother was out and had sex with her, taking her virginity.

In the sentencing, Judge Francis Sheridan emphasised: “You were a potential Olympian. You had the possibility of a stellar future representing the Netherlands. She was a child aged 12. You were fully aware of that fact.”

Prosecution and defence expert Linda Strudwick said: “There is genuine remorse. He has lost a stellar sports career and has been branded a rapist. Plainly it is a career end for him.” Evidently, this was not the case.

Following his 12-month sentence, Van de Velde almost immediately returned to professional sport, competing in multiple international matches since 2018. All of this subsequently led to him qualifying for the Olympics in his national pair with partner Matthew Immers.

After legitimate concern was raised the Dutch Olympic Committee (NOC) released a statement insisting that Ven de Velde had met all of the criteria for the Games: “After his release, Van de Velde sought and received professional counselling. He demonstrated to those around him—privately and professionally—self-insight and reflection.”

BBC also reported that in interviews with other news outlets, the 29-year-old shared: “I can’t reverse it, so will have to bear the consequences. It has been the biggest mistake of my life.”

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) stated that the nomination of individual team members is “the sole responsibility of each respective National Olympic Committee.”

While little else is known about the case’s details or indeed the impact this traumatic event will have had on the victim, the fact that someone who raped a child is being allowed to compete in the most prestigious sporting event in the world is truly shocking and abhorrent.

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