Coming from the Estonian countryside, it was a long and winding road for Saskia Alusalu (EST) to become an Olympic Speed Skater. The compulsory rest due to the ramifications of the Covid-19 pandemic last season, made her realize how tough the life of a top-athlete is. She skipped the bubble races in Heerenveen and is seeking the best pathway towards the Olympic Games in Beijing next season.
The Polish Speed Skating Association PZLS will celebrate its 100th anniversary on October 9, 2021. Over the past century the sport has had its ups and downs in Poland, celebrating its biggest success when Zbigniew Bródka won gold in the 1500m at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi. Four years later in PyeongChang, Poland did not manage to win any Speed Skating silverware, but PZLS sports director Konrad Niedźwiedzki is working hard to raise a new generation of Polish Speed Skating talent.
The rocker and the bend. Few people outside Speed Skating know what it’s about, but on the ice it can make a world of difference. Twofold ISU World Speed Skating Champion Nils van der Poel (SWE) found out only two weeks before his legendary world record 10,000m race in Heerenveen last February. A Speed Skating tube is neither flat nor straight, here’s why.
Speed Skating was one of the first sports in modern history to have World Championships organized by an international federation. Before this first tournament in Amsterdam in 1893, Speed Skating tracks varied a lot in length and shape, but with the inaugural ISU Word Speed Skating Championships the ISU standardized the 400m track, and the dimensions are very precise.
Kjeld Nuis (NED) had a rollercoaster winter after switching teams last summer. “It was the worst start of the season ever for me”, he referred to contracting Covid-19 in October. The reigning Olympic 1000m and 1500m champion eventually finished the season with a silver medal in the 1500m.
“It was the worst moment in my life,” says Artur Nogal (POL) about his Olympic experience at PyeongChang 2018. His Games were over after a crash only a few meters into his 500m race. He managed to turn the negative into the positive: “That moment made me stronger.”
Olga Fatkulina (RSU) was born and raised in Chelyabinsk, where Speed Skating is a very popular sport. In times of economic hardship and personal despair, Speed Skating was her way out to build a better life. Olympic silver in the 500m at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi is the pinnacle of her career, “So far”, the 31-year-old sprinter adds with her characteristic smile. “But I hope to win more in the future.”
Reigniting the British Speed Skating tradition, that’s what Ellia Smeding, Cornelius Kersten are after. “Great Britain has a great Speed Skating history, but it’s forgotten”, says Kersten. The British Speed Skating couple aims at the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing and set up their own coffee company to finance their campaign.
“Growing up, I was playing every sport under the sun”, says Brittany Bowe (USA) with a smile. Had she not become an Olympic Speed Skater, she might have been a professional basketball player. Having won five world titles and an Olympic bronze medal, the 33-year-old sprinter is proud of her achievements so far: “I’ve checked almost everything of my list of goals, but there’s one thing that’s outstanding, an Olympic gold medal.”
He’s been around in international Speed Skating for ten years, but the best is yet to come for Laurent Dubreuil. Last January the Canadian followed the footsteps of his legendary countryman Jeremy Wotherspoon, winning 500m gold at the ISU World Speed Skating Championships in Heerenveen. Although both his parents were Olympic Speed Skaters, Dubreuil’s choice of sports was his own. “To me, nothing was as much fun as Speed Skating,” he says.
When Joel Dufter (GER) crashed in the 500m at ISU World Cup Speed Skating races in Heerenveen in January, he put the track markers back in place before getting up again. “I crashed in the corner and it was a mess. I thought it was the right thing to do,” he laughs. It says a lot about his character.
She was 14 months old when she had her first pair of inline skates, but only at age seventeen Francesca Lollobrigida she had her first taste of ice skating in Baselga di Piné. “I was in my inline suit with short sleeves and all the ice skaters were looking at me, what is she going to do?” Looking back she laughs about it. Over the years Lollobrigida has become a household name in International Speed Skating.
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.