Verona van de Leur: The star gymnast who reinvented herself as a porn actress

Verona van de Leur: The star gymnast who reinvented herself as a porn actress

In the three decades that followed, it became a Dutch national treasure known for its athletic prowess.

But her injury reduced her career and her life got out of hand. Locked in the family home, she says she spent two years homeless and endured a delicate legal battle with her father.

Things got even worse when she was imprisoned, convicted of blackmail in 2011. She says that she came a few seconds after walking in front of a train to end her life.

Verona van de Leur
Verona van de Leur

She says the redemption came to work as a porn actress and, now 34, Van de Leur wrote her autobiography, detailing the details of her life.

She is adamant, there are no regrets. Van de Leur told CNN Sport’s Don Riddell about her foray into the adult film industry last year, Van de Leur said: “Actually, no regrets because I lived on the streets. .. I always would, so I don’t regret it, not the way I did it, no. ”

Passionate about gymnastics at the 1996 Olympic Games, she put her heart into participating in the Games. The medals followed, with silver at the World and European Championships. She was named Dutch Sportswoman of the Year in 2002 just before she turned 17.

Lisa Deen, who works as a freelance sports journalist specializing in gymnastics, describes Van de Leur as “one of the greatest gymnasts in the history of the Netherlands”.

“Left with a black hole”

To begin with, Van de Leur loved life as a gymnast.

“It’s pretty strange but it’s also fun of course – I mean you’re a teenager and everyone is looking at you the right way, asking for an autograph, so it’s special, of course,” says -she.

“Your parents are proud, your family is proud, everyone is talking about you in a positive way. But you have all the pressures to come and you have to succeed again and again in the next competition.”

Trying to determine when things started to come apart is difficult for Van de Leur.

Verona van de Leur

Sometimes she thinks it could have happened as early as the age of nine when she started gymnastics in competition.

What is beyond doubt is that the downward spiral started in 2003 following an injury. Suddenly, said Van de Leur, she had nothing.

“If I look back, it’s just a sport, a hobby you’re good at,” she says. “But at the time, it was printed in my head:” This is what you are. You’re just a gymnast “. And for me, there was no life apart from that … For the people around me, I was only this robot, only the gymnast and I didn’t have any friends.

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“So if your sport collapses, there is nothing left then you have this black hole.”

Van de Leur says that her love for gymnastics reached its peak in 2008 when she announced to the media at the European Championships that she was moving away from the sport that had defined her life. She was only 22 years old.

Her first reaction was happiness, it was finally over, and for once, she felt like she was taking control of her own life. However, when she told her parents, she said they scolded her, fearing that Van de Leur would deny her potential earnings.

According to her, their attitude was that “money was more important than their own daughter”. At that time, she returned to the family home to find that she was no longer welcome, she said.

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“Locked out of the house”

CNN tried to contact Van de Leur’s father for comments via email, phone, and social media, but failed, as did his sister.

“I tried the locks, I had a key because I lived there and you try it and it doesn’t work,” remembers Van de Leur. “You think first, well, it must be a mistake or I’ll just call home. They did not respond, they did not open and then I realized that I was no longer welcome.

So she slept in her car with her boyfriend that night, first annoyed and then sorry that her family had rejected her. She said, “The last time I saw them was in court.”

A judicial summary of the case indicates that Van de Leur argued that in 2008 his father, who acted as his agent, “withdrew € 9,000 ($ 9,768) from the plaintiff’s payment account without the consent or knowledge of the claimant, of which only part of the claimant has been reimbursed or related to costs incurred on behalf of the claimant. ”

She added: “I asked for the accounts and where is my sponsorship money and all the money I get from gymnastics when I won and everything was gone. The only thing was to get justice to go to court so that’s what I did. ”

A lawyer listed as the lawyer for Van de Leur’s father at the time declined to comment on CNN citing a code of conduct.

The court’s summary indicates that Van de Leur’s father argued that he had “incurred costs, including moving the plaintiff’s personal property out of her trainer’s house, purchasing gifts for the coach and his family, replacing locks in the accused’s house and staying with his family because of the potential for threats. ”

However, in February 2009, a court in The Hague ordered his father to pay him € 1,355.89 ($ 1,471) and to allow Van de Leur to return home to recover a number of items: a bed tanning, tracksuits and leotards, and various gifts, and stop running a website on its behalf.

Reflecting on facing his parents in the courtroom, Van de Leur said: “From the start, I know I lost everything and the money is not getting the parents back.”

Verona van de Leur

“I didn’t used to show myself naked”

For two years after the fallout from her family, she said she was homeless. Meanwhile, Van de Leur was arrested for attempting to blackmail a couple with an additional marital relationship – she was charged with extortion – which resulted in her 72 days in prison.

“At that time, being homeless, I no longer cared about how I had money for food,” she said.

“But even in this worst situation, I know it was not my right to determine the law and, yes, I regret that I did not choose or find another option during this period. Maybe it’s good for me to have been punished “for 72 days to realize that I was wrong, and I was. ”

Once out of prison, the adult industry – first as a webcam model, then making videos with her boyfriend – seemed like a good outcome. The couple is still together 13 years later.

“I saw it as an opportunity,” said Van de Leur. “It was a big contract so I could build something, start my business. I started as a webcam model. It was not a physical contact, so the computer screen was ok. I didn’t usually show myself naked, of course. ”

The reaction in the Netherlands to her dramatic career change, she said, was mixed, but having been homeless and in prison, Van de Leur saw her new job give her a new start.

“I didn’t say at the time where I lived on the street or where I came from but for me it was actually a step forward and they only saw that I was going down,” he said. she declared. “So I kept it in mind, it’s my life, it’s what I love to do and I’ve always seen it as work.”

Van de Leur also made a return to the world of gymnastics at the World Championships in Stuttgart last year where she worked as an analyst for the Dutch media, but returned home prematurely before the event ended.

As she ponders the various twists and turns in her life, Van de Leur says that she wishes she had been smarter at a younger age when her career as a gymnast took off.

Above all these days, she wants to embrace life – being so close to ending it all.

It was in the middle of the dispute with her family that Van de Leur said that she went on a railway line to commit suicide.

“I went on the train and I just counted from 10 to zero and I didn’t jump,” she recalls. “I don’t know why but it was really the moment when it could be over.

“I thought of my family that I had lost, I lived on the street, I had nothing, nothing to eat, no money in my hands, so I had nothing to live for.

“That’s what I thought at the time, but, when the train has just passed, I may not know that something broke. I still don’t know why I didn’t jump , I was crying and I left. ”

Now Van de Leur says that this moment gives her strength and that she has learned to “enjoy every moment of her life”.

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