PyeongChang / Republic of Korea

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From a phone call in early 2017 to an Olympic title in February 2018. Carlijn Achtereekte’s (NED) 3000m gold was unexpected, but the Dutch skater had a plan and stuck to it. After having swapped from team to team for several years, Achtereekte felt that she had never lived up to her real potential and she decided to call Jac Orie (NED), coach of the successful trade team of, among others, Sven Kramer (NED).

“I think I called him at least three times. He was hard to reach, but he finally returned my call,” the fresh Olympic Champion said after her race. “I told myself not to give up until I had had him on the phone.”

Achtereekte’s only prize at a major tournament had been a 5000m silver at the ISU World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships in 2015. “I went from team to team, it was not ideal. I always struggled with my physical fitness, but I never stopped believing in myself. I knew I needed something new. Jac is a coach who keeps track of everything. I wanted to make sure I was not ill so often anymore. I wanted stability. That’s why I wanted to train with him.”

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Carlijn Achtereekte (NED) wins Ladies 3000m at PyeongChang 2018 ©Getty Images

It was a nervous phone call. “Everybody wants to train with Jac Orie and his team, so I explained to him what my specific reasons were. He wanted me to do a bicycle test and I had not trained on a bike for several weeks, so I started cycling like mad. I think I must have triggered him somehow.”

Orie agreed to work with Achtereekte, partly because he thought she would be a good training partner for Yvonne Nauta (NED), who was also in his team. Nauta broke her leg in an unfortunate training accident in the spring of 2017 and she missed out on the Olympic season. Orie says: “I had very specific ideas about her (Achtereekte) training with Nauta. What happened to Nauta is terrible, but now this. I knew somehow she had it in her.”

Achtereekte herself praised Nauta for her generous support after not being able to train for the Olympic Games herself. “She’s got the Olympic Experience from four years ago and she has been on my side all the way preparing for these Games.”

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Carlijn Achtereekte and her coach Jac Orie ©Getty Images

Despite having worked well with Orie over the past year, Achtereekte did not enter PyeongChang 2018 as a medal favorite. “We managed to get everything stable”, she said. “I was good in the 3000m at the Dutch trials and I was good at the European Championships in Kolomna (RUS - silver in 3000m). Those were ok races, but I hoped that Jac could take me to a top form here and that worked our perfectly.”

Apart form keeping track of everything, Orie did not change much in Achgereekte’s technique. “He told me to stay deeper. I stayed too high, which he thought was really bad. If you duck deeper and push from the corners it automatically leads to fast laps.”

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Jac Orie Dutch Speed Skating Coach ©Getty Images

Orie was taken by surprise to see his pupil skating away with the gold medal. “We wanted to find the right form and now at this exact moment she pulls it off. I’m so incredibly happy for her. It’s always easy to say things in hindsight. I had seen that she improved everyday last week and I thought, if everything works out well, she might take a bronze medal. And then she takes gold. She did a fantastic job.”