When Dutch gymnast Celine van Gerner was introduced for the last time in Glasgow at the 2018 European Championships, she waved to the crowd sporting a full face of cat makeup. The reason: Van Gerner, 23, was set to compete to music from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats for her floor final.
Van Gerner’s cat-like hairstyle and makeup caught everyone’s attention. While music on women’s floor exercise has long been standard, theatrical makeup and costumes are not. Van Gerner’s use of stage makeup appears to be a first for competitive women’s gymnastics. (The leotard, though it fit the feline theme of the exercise quite well, was actually one of the Dutch team leotards. Here’s a photo of the entire squad wearing it earlier in the competition.)
And here’s van Gerner’s full floor routine from the apparatus final.
Van Gerner placed fourth in the eight-person field, which marks a four-spot jump from her ranking in qualifications where she was the last gymnast to make it to the finals. So it does not appear that she was penalized for dressing up like a cat to compete at the European Championships.
After the competition, van Gerner spoke to Liubov Baladzhaeva of Gymnovosti about her decision to go full-on cat in the final:
I think everybody has their own opinion. I can understand it because it’s not like we’re used to makeup like this in artistic gymnastics, but for me, it was like… I’m doing this routine based on the musical Cats, I’m wearing a cat-like leotard… I came in 8th, so it was kind of once in a lifetime opportunity to go all in. We checked the rules and there was no restriction on makeup, so we just went for it. And, like I said, it’s probably a once in a lifetime opportunity. And it was really fun.
Van Gerner says she has yet to actually see Cats. It’s set to tour in the Netherlands, but it’s sold out and she doesn’t yet have a ticket. (What if this routine was simply van Gerner’s attempt to get a ticket to the show?)
While van Gerner’s use of stage makeup is unusual, the expressiveness she exhibited is pretty much par for the course when it comes to Dutch gymnastics. Over the last few years, the female Dutch gymnasts have earned a reputation among the global gymnastics community for performing innovative choreography in their floor routines. While their tumbling often lags behind other countries, they make up for it in their performance abilities.
Here’s van Gerner’s teammate, Eythora Thorsdottir, performing a delightfully bizarre routine in Rio:
The Dutch women have also become known for choreographing their intros to team competitions. Every other team simply walks up there and waves. The Dutch gymnasts do something like this:
Keep on keeping it weird, Dutch.