Suzanne Schulting has taken her ice skating from the frozen Dutch canals to the absolute top of the world, making the Short Track Speed Skating circuit her home away from home.
“Short Track is like one big family,” the 23-year-old said. “I really like racing against everyone, I really like the game and, of course, the speed.”
Born in Groningen, in the north of the Netherlands, Schulting grew up in the countryside, in a house surrounded by canals. When they froze in the winter she came to appreciate she had her first ice track on her doorstep and quickly learned how to skate, and joined a Short Track Speed Skating club in Heerenveen at the age of eight.
A decade later, Schulting won the overall silver medal at the 2016 ISU World Junior Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria, before becoming a regular gold medal contender on the senior ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating circuit.
In 2018, she won the 1000m title at the PyeongChang Olympic Games to become the Netherlands’ first Olympic Short Track Speed Skating champion. Schulting was subsequently named 2018’s Dutch sportswoman of the year, and made Knight of the Orde van Oranje-Nassau (Order of Orange Nassau) in recognition of her historic feat.
She followed it in 2019 by achieving another milestone back in Sofia, where she became her nation’s first female overall ISU World Short Track Speed Skating champion.
Her success continued, and Schulting now has three consecutive ISU European Short Track Speed Skating overall titles to her name, despite the lack of international competition between her 2020 triumph in Debrecen, Hungary and her dominant display in Gdansk, Poland, in January 2021 and last weekend at the ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2021 in Dordrecht, Netherlands.
“Mentally, in the beginning it was quite hard,” she said about preparing for the 2020/2021 season.
“The first goal is of course the World Cups and then there were suddenly no World Cups anymore. Then you set a new goal for the second part of the season, to skate World Cups in December, and then you hear in December that there’s no longer any World Cups.
“I am super happy that I’m able to skate and able to race again. I think everyone, including me, really missed racing internationally so despite all of the things we’ve got to do with testing and wearing a mask and everything, I’m super happy that we are able to compete and skate against each other, and I’m not the only one.”
The star, however, managed to stay in shape to come back looking stronger than ever, partly thanks to continuing to compete nationally and internationally in long track Speed Skating during the Short Track Speed Skating break.
“I was super happy to be able to do long track competitions,” Schulting said.
“It went quite well. I was still super busy so to me it feels like a normal season and I’m happy with that but of course I missed the (Short Track) World Cups.”
In February, she finished eighth in the 1000m at the ISU Speed Skating World Championships in her home town, Heerenveen. But it’s on the smaller rink where Schulting aims to chase more glory at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games as she continues to establish the Netherlands as a Short Track Speed Skating superpower.
Her achievements, alongside those of compatriots including Sjinkie Knegt, a two-time Olympic medalist, Yara van Kerkhof and Itzhak de Laat, have already led to a surge in interest in her sport in her long track-loving home country.
“Speed Skating in Holland is super big and Short Track was always the little sister before, but now it’s really up and coming and everyone loves Short Track in Holland,” she said.