The history of U-turn; the 'Utrechtse' Student Gymnastics Association

U-turn was founded in 2006 by Annette Wensink, Vera van der Sterren en Tjeerd Raijmakers, who were, respectively: president, secretary, and treasurer.

The idea for the foundation of a student gymnastics association in Utrecht originated in early 2006, after which an event was organized to scout potential members. During the first weeks of U-turn at least 15 people joined the association, which for the founding board was enough to continue the official procedure to establish U-turn. The establishment of U-turn became official with the memorandum and articles of statutes on April 5th 2007, this day is celebrated every year as the anniversary or ‘Dies Natalis’ of U-turn.

The main focus after the official establishment was to gain more members and organize administrative documents. However, the board also organized a number of fun activities and extra training sessions. The total membership of U-turn stabilized in early 2007 to 25 members. The first year was described by the board as being: ‘ busy, exciting and fun, with many great social activities and good times within and outside the board.’

In late 2008 new milestones were reached by the establishment of a weekly training session and the organization of the first U-turn camp. Since 2011, U-turn training sessions take place in the Nieuw-Welgelegen gym, which is fully equipped for both Men’s and Women’s Artistic Gymnastics and is one of the best facilities in the country. In April 2012 U-turn celebrated its 5th anniversary with activities and a gala. In the years after this, U-turn has grown immensely, reaching a preliminary high of 120 members in 2023-2024. Besides the membership growth, many committees were formed throughout the years. For example; the Wintersports Committee in 2016 and the TripCie in 2019 (for more information see: Committees & Activities). In 2020, U-turn also co-organized a gala with 3 other student sports associations from Utrecht. Furthermore, U-turn has 3 training sessions per week and offers additional ‘open’ sessions as well as sessions during the official Dutch school breaks. 

The origin of our mascot: Slettie Bettie

U-turn has had its loyal piglet mascot by its side for quite some time now, members have definitely seen her around at competitions. But where did our pink girlfriend come from? This is the ‘roughly’ translated version of the story behind the creation of our babe. 

‘One day, the custom of ‘biggen’ was introduced by gymnasts Anja and Mignon. This meant that every time you would stick your landing during a competition you would earn a ‘big’, which is a pink piglet face shaped candy. After one competition every U-turners was already loudly yelling ‘BIG’ for every sticked landing. From that moment onwards, U-turn was known for ‘BIG’ (Dutch for piglet), however, we did not yet have a mascotte. Not long after this, it got a lot colder and around December 5th like every year Sinterklaas arrived in the Netherlands. On a cold winter ‘pakjesavond’ (the night Sinterklaas brings his gifts) U-turners brought gifts to the U-turn Sinterklaas activity. One of them was a true U-turner and brought a pink piglet stuffed animal. Everyone wanted to get the piglet and during the game that was played many people got her and then had to pass her on again. This is how she got her name, as someone joked that many people had had her she was nicknamed Slettie=Slutty Bettie. Eventually, everyone agreed that Slettie Bettie was part of U-turn and she was gifted to the board. To this day, she still graces the competition floor in her U-turn leotard.