The father of the teenage girls involved in the incident which led to Mathieu van der Poel being charged with assault the night before the world road race championships in Wollongong has criticised the decision to fine the Dutch rider A$1,500, allowing him to travel home to Belgium yesterday.
Emad, the father of the two 13 and 14-year-old sisters who were reportedly confronted and pushed by Van der Poel after knocking on his hotel room door, told the Daily Mail Australia that the 27-year-old had “every right to be angry, but not to do what he did”.
On Monday, Van der Poel – one of the pre-race favourites for the rainbow jersey in Wollongong – was fined a total of A$1,500 (£909) after admitting two counts of common assault in connection with the incident in his hotel in the Sydney suburb of Brighton-Le-Sands.
According to New South Wales Police, the Dutch cyclist pushed both girls, with one of them falling to the ground and the other sustaining a grazed elbow after scraping it against a wall. Video footage has since appeared online showing a girl about to knock on a hotel room door before her, and a second girl filming, are chased into their own room opposite by a topless man.
Van der Poel had been due to appear in Sutherland Local Court yesterday, but the hearing was brought forward to facilitate his return flight to Belgium. After admitting both counts, he was fined A$1,500 by Magistrate Hugh Donnelly, who told him that he was wrong to have taken the law into his own hands and should have called hotel security instead. Due to his conviction, the Alpecin-Fenix rider will be unable to re-enter Australia for three years.
Van der Poel told waiting reporters at Brussels Airport yesterday that he regretted his handling of the situation, but denied pushing or attempting to intentionally harm the girls.
However, the sisters’ father Emad has allegedly supplied the Daily Mail with photos of his daughters’ injuries, including carpet burn, and told the newspaper that the girls are “very shaken” due to the late-night confrontation.
Emad, whose wife was staying in the hotel for the weekend with her friend and their four children, recognised that the girls’ practical joke angered Van der Poel, but did not justify his actions.
“I see her knocking on the door in the video and I can see from the way she walks away that she was very scared,” he said. “The eldest is a daredevil, but this shocked her. He was yelling at my youngest, the 12-year-old, saying ‘were you doing this as well?’ and she was freaking out. They are very shaken.
“But they did get in trouble. They are in trouble,” he admitted. “He’s got every right to get angry, but not to do what he did. They’re tiny little girls, and he’s massive.
“Look, I did things when I was their age, but the younger one had Covid only a few weeks ago and this was their time out. They were excited… but then they were a bit naughty.”
He continued: “My wife’s angry that he’s fled the country as well as what he did.”
The father of another girl involved in the incident also expressed his frustration to the Daily Mail that the cyclist was fined and allowed to leave Australia.
“If I assaulted children, I’d be locked up in jail for a year because I can't afford bail,” John, the father of the 13-year-old Van der Poel allegedly pushed, said. “Child abuse is a big thing.”
The 43-year-old also claimed that his daughter has experienced nightmares since the incident.
“We went to the hospital on Sunday and I’m taking her to the psychologist because she's scared,” he said.
“She's worried she’s in trouble and has done something wrong because some people are blaming her and me, saying it was the girls’ fault and I’m a bad parent, but it was the school holidays – what kids at that age are going to bed at nine o’clock?”
While John conceded that the girls shouldn’t have been playing the game that provoked Van der Poel, he also argued that the 27-year-old’s subsequent behaviour was “unbelievable” and unjustifiable.
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.