An Olympic medal in Speed Skating for Spain? It never happened before, but that doesn’t stop Nil Llop (ESP) from dreaming. The 20-year-old Catalan believes in opportunities, even when it’s against all odds. After a training accident in 2018, doctors said that he would never be able to skate again but one year later he became ISU World Junior Champion at the World Roller Games. Llop combines roller skating with ice skating because he strives to be an Olympian.
The Speed Skating Season came to a climax in the Heerenveen Hub this weekend with the ISU World Speed Skaitng Championships 2021. Check out a selection of some of the best pictures captured.
She makes it look easy, but it’s years of hard work paying off. Femke Kok came, saw and conquered four 500m gold medals straight from her first A division start in the ISU World Cup Speed Skating this season. “As a kid I never won anything,” she smiles subdued. Growing up in Drachten near Heerenveen, with parents who both practiced Speed Skating themselves, Kok was raised on the famous Thialf ice rink.
“The coffee is great.” Peter Kongshaug smiles. Apart from Speed Skating, good coffee is another passion the 19-year-old newbee in the Norwegian squad shares with his older team-mates. After winning the junior title in the 1000m at the ISU World Junior Speed Skating Championships last season, Kongshaug was promoted to the senior selection last summer.
“I’ve never seen anybody doing what he does’, says Sweden coach Joël Eriksson admiringly about Nils van der Poel. “He’s an unbelievable kid.” The 24-year-old stunned the international Speed Skating world when he broke the nine-year-old track record the 10,000m in Inzell at a training race last December. It was his first official race after a two-year absence from Speed Skating. He was in the army and competed in ultrarunning instead. “There’s a lot of different ways that lead to Rome”, Van der Poel says without the slightest hesitation.
“The #OneGoodThing is of course that we can still do what we love,” says Francesca Lollobrigida (ITA) with a melancholic smile. “We were lucky to skate here outside with a pretty view in Baselga di Piné. Last week we had snow, but now the weather has come around nicely.” The 2018 ISU European Mass Start Speed Skating Champion had to postpone all her ambitions professionally and privately, due to COVID-19 restrictions in 2020.
He had his breakthrough year last season, crushing the 10,000m world record to take the ISU World Speed Skating title at age 22 in Salt Lake City. The future looked bright for Graeme Fish (CAN) last February, but like so many others he had to put his ambitions on hold when the international sports world came to a halt due to COVID-19.
The Russian Speed Skaters hope to be able to compete internationally at the ISU European Speed Skating Championships and the ISU World Cups in the Heerenveen hub in January, but their run-up to the shortcut season has been difficult due to the COVID-19 restrictions. Paweł Abratkiewicz (POL), coach of the Russian ladies, travelled a bumpy road to be able to guide his athletes on the ice.
Speed Skating is the fastest human powered, non-mechanical aided sport in the world, at least that’s what National Geographic concluded in a sports overview of the Winter Olympics in Sochi 2014.
“Great news for the sport of Speed Skating,” said Sven Kramer about the Hub concept in Heerenveen in January 2021. The ISU European Speed Skating Championships in Heerenveen on January 16-17 will be the first international competition for the Speed Skaters this season and the event will be followed by two subsequent ISU World Cup Speed Skating competitions in the same hub. The athletes are happy to come out and race internationally at last.
While international Speed Skating Events are on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions, coach Johan de Wit keeps the Japanese team’s spirits high and has ambition “We’re one of the best [Speed Skating] countries in the world and we want to show ourselves.”
Famous Speed Skating coach Ab Krook has died due to a stroke at the age of 76 on Tuesday 13 October. As the national coach of the Dutch Men and Ladies and the West-German team in the 1980s and 1990s, Krook was a household name in International Speed Skating.
The Covid-19 restrictions somehow were a blessing in disguise for Sverre Lunde Pedersen (NOR). The silver medallist from last year’s ISU World Allround Speed Skating Championships had more time with his family than usual over the summer, which he mostly spent with his wife and son Svein who was born in May. “It’s great to watch him grow,” Pedersen says. The Norwegian used the relatively quiet summer for a reset of his body after an exhausting and injury hampered season. He’s looking forward to racing this winter, even if it has to be in a bubble.
While most people enjoy swimming and sun-bathing in August, many Speed Skaters return to the ice for summer skating. After a lot of individual dryland training during the COVID-19 lockdown in form April to June, the Dutch Jumbo-Visma travelled to Inzell for the first real action on the ice in July and last week they returned home to step on the summer ice at Thialf in Heerenveen.
Speed Skating is about competition, but underneath the surface of many rivalries there’s a lot of mutual respect and friendship. To celebrate the UN’s International Day of Friendship, we looked into some great Speed Skating moments and the value of sports and friendship. The International Day of Friendship aims to confront the crises and challenges of the world (poverty, violence, human rights abuses, pandemics) that undermine peace, security, development and social harmony. Friendship is the simplest way to overcome this, says the UN: by accumulating bonds, we can contribute to the shifts needed to achieve lasting stability, and a better, more united world.