The joyful Thialf crowd had already heard the Dutch national anthem eight times and the Russian national anthem five times, when the Men's Mass Start bunch entered the rink for the final event at the ISU European Speed Skating Championships 2020. However, never in history, had La Brabançonne, the Belgian national anthem, been played at a major international Speed Skating tournament before. Bart Swings changed it all.
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Still feeling goosebumps! Being the only non-Dutch or Russian skater to grab gold at the European Championships! 🇪🇺😍 #SwingsOnWings This wasn’t possible without my partners: @atosglobal @polarbenelux @6dsportsnutrition @optiek_vangorp @bioracerspeedwear @vikingskates @specialized_nlbe and Ansem. 📸 @vincentriemersma
The Belgian silver medalist at the 2018 Olympic Mass Start, had set his sights on the title and the race unfolded perfectly for him. He explained: "The speed was high [throughout the race] and therefore it was not easy for Jorrit [Dutch contender Jorrit Bergsma] to try one of his jumps.
Bart Swings (BEL) leads the Mass Start race at the ISU European Speed Skating Championsips 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)
"He had to close a gap with some six laps to go, but the pace did not go down afterwards, which again played to my advantage. For me it would have been a dilemma to chase or not if Jorrit had attacked with two or three laps to go. That would have cost me in a sprint with guys like Livio Wenger (SUI) and Arjan Stroetinga (NED)."
Mass Start ISU European Speed Skating Championsips 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)
Italy's Michele Malfatti (ITA) tried to escape from the bunch, but was caught by the bunch led by Bergsma with one lap to go and it all came down to a chaotic sprint in the final lap.
Swings was placed perfectly and kept Stroetinga at bay on the final straight. Stroetinga took silver and Semerikov claimed bronze.
"My first title on ice," Swings said. "It's my most beautiful medal after my Olympic silver. I once started ice skating because of the Olympics [Swings is a multiple European and World Champion in inline skating], so that's definitely the most precious one, but winning gold means a lot too."
Bart Swings (BEL) following the Mass Start race at the ISU European Speed Skating Championsips 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)