Tuesday 27 July 2021

‘Dutch speed skating success is bad for the sport’

The ongoing Dutch success in long track speed skating at the Winter Olympics is great for the country but bad for the sport as a whole, skating historian Marnix Koolhaas told Nos television.

He predicts the Dutch dominance of the medals will make the sport less popular in the rest of the world. And the decision by Norwegian skaters to drop out of the men’s 10,000m event because they won’t win is ‘understandable,’ Koolhaas said.

‘The other countries don’t have a chance and will raise their voices for the event to be ditched even louder,’ he said.

Favourites

Sven Kramer, who won the gold medal in the 5,000m earlier in the Olympics, is hot favourite to take the 10,000m title and teamates Jorrit Bergsma and Bob de Jong could take silver and bronze. The Dutch long track medal haul is now 16, from eight events, including three clean sweeps.

Norway, traditionally a big supporter of distance skating, is less keen on the sport, Koolhaas says. ‘The Netherlands is the only country where speed skating is alive. The ice rinks are only full in the Netherlands,’ he told the broadcaster.

But skater Margot Boer disagrees with Koolhaas. She points out that the winning line-up has been very mixed at events earlier in the season. ‘We are peaking now,’ she said.

Finals

Koohaas thinks something needs to be done to make the sport more exciting. He suggests the introduction of quarter and semi-finals, as in short track speed skating. ‘Then you would get the best skaters competing against each other and it would be very exciting,’ he says.

Meanwhile, the NRC says people might soon have enough of the Dutch dominance. ‘In Sochi, orange is the new gold,’ news agency AP reported.

And the Wall Street Journal wrote: ‘Everyone sick of watching the Dutch win speed skating medals, please raise your hand. Hmm. Seems like everyone who isn’t wearing orange underwear has a hand in the air.’

The paper goes on to state the Dutch should be given credit for picking a sport in which ‘only about five nations are even competitive in’.

Analysis

Nevertheless, the foreign media have been busy trying to analyse why the Dutch are doing so well – and not all are on the right track.

The International Business Times says that ‘in winter months, skating is a sensible form of transportation, as commuters skate along frozen canals to visit family or friends who live many villages away.’

The comment caused considerable hilarity in the Dutch press, particularly given the absence of ice this winter.

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