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 Suzanne Schulting ISU 1230723786

Suzanne Schulting (NED) competes during the 2021 ISU European Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Gdansk, Poland. @ISU

The 2023 ISU European Short Track Speed Skating Championships take place in Gdansk (POL) from 13-15 January 2023, and the question everyone will be asking is: can anybody stop the Dutch? Skaters from the Netherlands are bossing women’s racing on a world level, not just the European one, and a new generation of men are threatening to do the same in their disciplines, too.

Schulting and Velzeboer lead women’s charge

Suzanne Schulting’s dominion over women’s Short Track is extraordinary by any metric and, from a European perspective, she is in a class of her own.

Schulting has won the past three overall European Championships – Dordrecht 2019, Debrecen 2020, and Gdansk 2021 (there was no competition in 2022 because of Covid-related measures and concerns).

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Suzanne Schulting (NED) celebrates after gold medal inn the Ladies 1000m final A during the 2021 ISU European Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Gdansk, Poland. @ISU

The absence of the one athlete of similar pedigree, Italy’s Arianna Fontana, who has seven career European Championships overall titles but is not competing this season, means the path seems clear for another crown to be added to the 25-year-old Dutchwoman’s mighty collection.

Is there any threat to this near-cert bet? If so, it probably lies within her own team. Xandra Velzeboer is the Netherlands’ speed queen and will be favorite for the 500m.

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Xandra Velzeboer  (NED)  competing during the 2022 ISU World Cup Short Track in Salt Lake City, Utah. @ISU

The 21-year-old has also shown herself capable of winning over Schulting’s favorite distance, the 1000m, too, nabbing gold at the World Cup in Montreal earlier in the season. Should Velzeboer put in the performance of a lifetime, and Schulting stumble, the title could head her way. Either way, a fascinating internal rivalry between the two friends is starting to develop. It’s a big ‘if’, however – and, with Schulting showing in recent years she can also triumph over 500m, Velzeboer’s preferred distance isn’t safe, either.

The 32-year-old Yara van Kerkhof, a stalwart of the Dutch team, also recently recorded her first individual 500m gold: expect a lot of tussling in orange at the front of most races.

Hanne Desmet (BEL) continues her impressive upward curve, while Natalia Maliszewska (POL) – roared on by a home crowd – and Anna Seidel (GER)  could get on to the top step of the podium if they hit their best form.

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Natalia Maliszewska (POL) competes during the 2022 ISU World Cup Short Track in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. @ISU

Wide-open field in men’s competition

A new men’s European Champion will likely be crowned: three-time winner Semen Elistratov cannot participate, and the sport’s most successful athletes recently, Shaoang and Shaolin Sandor Liu, are taking a break.

Sjinkie Knegt of the Netherlands, who claimed the title in 2012, 2015 and 2018, does line up – and the crafty legend can never be discounted – but he currently lies 21st in the World Cup rankings.

It is perhaps the young bucks, whom Knegt is helping to mentor at their Heerenveen headquarters, who could be worth paying closest attention to. The 21-year-old Jens van ’t Wout (NED) is an impressive and versatile talent, clocking his first three individual golds this season – one in each distance.

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Jens van `t Wout (NED) celebrates after winning Men's 1000m Final A race during the 2022 ISU World Cup Short Track in Almaty, Kazakhstan. @ISU

Stijn Desmet (BEL), who trains with the Netherlands squad, has been making podiums regularly this season and can also execute across all three races, while Teun Boer (NED) is a raw, bold racer who got on to a podium at his debut World Cup race in Montreal in October.

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Stijn Desmet (BEL) competes during the 2022 ISU World Short Track Championships in Montreal, Canada. @Getty Images

Itzhak de Laat (NED) is searching for his best form.

Elsewhere, Pietro Sighel (ITA) is a force when he gets things right, especially in the 500m, Roberts Kruzbergs (LAT) clocked Latvia’s first ever Short Track gold in Montreal earlier in the season, and Diane Sellier of Poland looks like an exciting new talent and will be backed by the crowd at the Hala Olivia.

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Roberts Kruzbergs (LAT) competing during the 2022 ISU World Cup Short Track in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. @ISU

Thrills, and new heroes, are the only guarantee.