A lot has changed in the world over the past year but on the first day of finals at the ISU European Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Gdańsk, Suzanne Schulting showed her dominance in the sport remains intact.
Twelve months after the Dutch Olympic champion won a clean sweep of gold medals at the 2020 European Championships in Debrecen, Hungary, she defended her 1500m and 500m titles in Poland.
“It’s absolutely great to be back, it’s absolutely great to be racing again and it’s such a great feeling to see all of the other competitors,” the 23-year-old said.
“I really love Short Track Speed Skating and I’m super happy with my two gold medals today.”
It was Schulting’s first international Short Track appearance since the World Cup stop in Dordrecht, Netherlands, in February 2020 but she believes the break has only made her stronger.
“I did some long track competitions this pre-winter and did some competitions before the Europeans, which went quite well. I’ve been racing a lot, maybe that is why I’m as good as I am right now,” she said.
“I have more speed than last year and I think you can see it in my times on 500m that I’m able to skate faster and that helps me through the whole race. I’m more stable and I think you can see it in my 1500m and also in my 1000m. When I jump away, I set my speed really high and I think that’s perfect. I feel stronger than ever.”
Anna Seidel (GER) at the ISU European Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2021 © International Skating Union (ISU)
In the Championships’ first final, Schulting won the 1500m title comfortably, 0.331 seconds ahead of silver medalist Anna Seidel – the German’s best result at any senior Championships, having claimed European bronze over this distance last year. Russia’s Sofia Prosvirnova took bronze this time.
In the 500m final, Schulting fought it out with home hope Natalia Maliszewska and won by 0.124s.
“I was nervous,” Schulting said. “I think it was a quite important day today. It was two really important distances, especially the 500m where everything is always so close and you have to race really well to get the golds, especially with Natalia.”
Natalia Maliszewska (POL) at the ISU European Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2021 © International Skating Union (ISU)
The two skaters hugged on the ice after the final.
“I think that Natalia is such a great skater and also such a nice person. I really love to race against her,” Schulting said. “I really want to win but if Natalia would’ve won I would’ve also been happy for her, to win in her home country.”
Maliszewska, who won the European 500m title on Schulting’s home ice in Dordrecht, Netherlands two years ago, celebrated her silver like a victory.
“This silver medal is a big win and I’m totally amazed and happy,” the 25-year-old said.
“Even though we didn’t have that many people here I have felt so much support from my friends and family. I think that my dad had a heart attack because he was really happy that we are skating in Poland. Everything that we did here is amazing.”
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