What you see is what you get


Posted by Bert VAN MANEN on August 17, 2013

Bert van ManenShe is the most visible personality in women’s 3-cushion, the highest ranked female on the combined UMB list (121st), nr. 1 on the UMB Ladies ranking, and the strongest player in the world today: Therese Klompenhouwer (3 January 1983). With a steady average just over 1.000, she is a step and a half ahead of her female rivals, who are mostly from Japan (Natsumi Higashiuchi, Namiko Hayashi, Orie Hida, Yuko Nishimoto) and Korea (Bo Ra Yeong, Ji Hyun Park, Su Ah Park). Dutch Karina Jetten is also on the level of those Asians, but the others from western Europe (Helga Mitterböck, Danielle Le Bruijn, Gülsen Degener, Marianne Mortensen, Gerrie Geelen) are even further back. I’ll mention the talented Mercedes Gonzalez from USA, she’s over 0.700  but she seldom plays in the tournaments that matter. With the exception of Orie Hida, these girls will all struggle to play at a 0.800 pace, some will stay well below that. Terri, as Therese is affectionately known, is currently in a class of her own.

Therese stood out and made a name for herself when she was still very young. Her older brother Jarno was a talented 3-cushion player, her parents had a billiard room, it was the perfect nest. She picked up a cue as a child, and made the switch from the free game to 3-cushion as a teenager, her talent showing from the get-go. With early fame came early responsibility. TK learned how to give interviews. She set up a homepage and a fan club, dealt with sponsors, managed her travelling schedule, got a little cue business going. Did all that in her early and mid-twenties, and did it well. She takes her public relations seriously, wins over audiences where ever she plays, and gets along well with birds of every plumage. In short: she has developed from a talented teen into an outstanding ambassador for our sport.

Terri has been the ladies champion in the Netherlands since 2004, and European champion (which is a bi-annual event) since 2005. She holds every record in women’s 3-cushion: best average over 30 points (in 13 innings), 40 (in 22), 45 (in 22) and 50 (in 26), best league season average (1.064), high run (15), and probably a few more I did not think of. Her supremacy was underlined with undefeated victories in the two strongest tournaments this year: the Femina Open in Zoersel (Belgium) and the Verhoeven Ladies Open in New York. A fault-free match in the group stage of the men’s event (25 pts in 10 innings, against Manuel Lindao) was the highlight of her trip to the Big Apple. But it does not take a genius to spot the missing jewel in the crown: the title of world champion.

Orie Hida was a very deserving winner of the Ladies WC in 2006 (Hoensbroek – Netherlands) and 2008 (Sivas – Turkey). In 2010, the championship (inexplicably) was not organized by the UMB. Finally, last year, Therese got her shot at the title in Tokyo. It would turn out to be the disappointment of her career. She was hit hard by jetlag, did not sleep well at all, and never found any confidence at the table. With Orie Hida having been away from competition for a while, and Karina’s game not fully all-round yet, Natsumi Higashiuchi was the surprise winner of the title. For TK, high expectations and a lot of hard work resulted in nothing but a poor average, a 7th place, and a very long trip home. She bounced back well though; she has not lost a single match to a woman since “Tokyo”, and has her eye on the 2014 WC in Greece already.

It was also in 2012, that Therese married Bertine, her girlfriend of many years.

Is that a major talking point in the small world of 3-cushion, that our female star player is gay? Actually, not at all. Mostly because this is the Netherlands, not Kazakhstan, Uganda or Tennessee. Also, because Therese does not make a big deal out of it, and will not bring up the subject if you don’t. She’s very capable of putting on something pink and having loads of fun at a Gay Pride day, but in regular life she’s unprovocative and – even with a little tattoo & piercing – understated. Male 3-cushion players tend to get her message rather quickly: “Don’t treat me like a little girl (you’ll regret that), or like one of the guys (I’m not, I’m a woman), just deal with ME, what you see is what you get.”

It works. Therese has done more to dismantle prejudice and breed acceptance of gay women in a  conservative male environment than perhaps she realizes. She hasn’t done it on a barricade with a megaphone, she’s done it by being a nice person. Like in tennis though, few gay men follow where women have taken the lead. A Martin Navratil or a Bill Jean King is yet to stand up. Sadly, it’s like that in 3-cushion: gay women out and proud, very little progress made for gay men.

The remainder of 2013 has two World Cups (Korea and Greece) in store for TK. Other than that, it is all about league play. She plays for teams in Holland, Belgium and Germany, that first country being the special one this year, as her team in Sluiskil won promotion to the Dutch “Eredivisie”, the highest division. It’s a fun group: Ludo Dielis, Bart Ceulemans, TK, Berry Dallinga and Patrick Vasseur, four of the five to play every week. Therese is expected to play most of her matches on the second board; Leppens, van Kuyk, Peter Ceulemans, Bitalis, Valentijn, de Kleine and Raymond Ceulemans are some of the opponents she can expect! A few of those will be just too good, but the list of 3-cushion players who have never lost to a woman is bound to get shorter in 2013 – 2014.

When asked about her expectations for the upcoming years, TK will make no secret of it that the 2014 world title is her nr.1 priority. As for her game, she thinks she can develop into a 1.2 player for sure (and this writer agrees). Looking beyond that is difficult. She no longer has the benefit of lessons (from Christ van der Smissen) paid by the Dutch federation, those funds have dried up. An occasional lesson from Belgian top player Jef Philipoom has been beneficial, she says. “New York was like a school also. Top players on 10 tables, I’ve watched as many hours as I’ve played. If I’m at a UMB tournament on the Turkish Riviera or in Greece, you are not going to find me by the pool. I’m watching Forthomme, Sanchez and Blomdahl, and I make notes.”

Is this girl a pro, or what?