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The World Sprint Championships in Heerenveen

Posted by speedskating-online on January 24, 2008 at 2:47 PM







Written by Naomi

Dutch speed skating fan


If you say ?Thialf, Heerenveen?, you say Dutch fans in orange outfits, dancing and singing and cheering for every skater that passes by. A lot of the Dutch people like speed skating in some way or the other, and the last huge event in Heerenveen, the World All-round Championships in February 2007, was broadcasted live on national television. And yes, the program had the most viewers of all television programs in 2007. It was viewed by 3,9 million people, almost ? of all the people living in Holland.


But that was on television, and 11,000 people in the stadium itself. No wonder people are considering speed skating in Heerenveen as something you have to see for yourself sometime, some day?


It?s not easy to get tickets, you already know this if you?ve read my other blogs. But what happens on the day itself? Let me tell you how I?ve experienced the World Sprint Championships last weekend.


On Saturday my alarm clock wakes me up at 5 am. You may think I want to snooze a little bit and stay in bed a little while longer, but not me. I jump out of bed and I?m having trouble brushing my teeth because of the big smile that is on my face. I love the sprint distances. These distances are the best distances of my favourite speed skaters, or are they my favourites because they are the best in these distances? Either way, I am really looking forward to this weekend.


It?s pitch dark outside and it?s also raining cats and dogs when I get into my car. I will drive to Caat again, leave my car at her place, and together we will drive to Heerenveen. We arrive there at 9 am. The others are already waiting and we catch up a little bit. We talk to each other every day, but I haven?t seen the girls since the last World Cup in Heerenveen, in December.


We are hiding under a huge piece of plastic, keeping us all warm and dry. You can feel the tension in the line. Everybody is talking and laughing and every few minutes we get some strange faces looking at us, because maybe we?re laughing a little bit too loud. But I don?t care. Time flies when you?re having fun and we are having a lot of fun and we need to kill a whole lot of time.



Tension is building when the security guys start to check our bags and tickets. More and more people are lining up behind us, and fortunately for us, there are not that many people in front of us. More and more security people are gathering, and stewards are waiting at the stairs. We are with four girls and we have a strategy: who will hold which bag, who will go first and crazy stuff like that. Finally we are allowed to walk to the stairs. We have to walk all the way around the stadium and this is really the fastest 300 meters I?ve ever walked. The rain is pouring down on us, I step into huge puddles of water, am being shoved in the back, kicked against my shins, punched against my arms and get beaten once or twice. And we are still walking in a sort of running way.


It must be hilarious to watch, but it?s also dead serious business. Once we are at the north side of the stadium, the stewards are letting us go and we run to the last stairs. In 2 seconds the stairs are filled with people and once everybody has settled down a bit, we discover it?s already 11.20 am. The doors will open at 12 o?clock. In the meantime it?s no longer just raining but water is pouring down on us. In 5 seconds everybody is soaked to the bone. This is really no fun at all! I am wondering why I am doing this and I?m thinking to myself that there better be some really good waving action from my favourite speed skaters to make up for all this crap!!


But it gets even worse! At twelve o? clock, there is still no movement at the door. We wait and we wait. I try to tell myself that the doors will open when they will open and that I just have to be patient? I think of myself as a person with a whole lot of good qualities, and yes, also some bad things. And let me tell you this: patience is not one of my good ones. It takes forever and then, all of a sudden we hear only 1 door will open, instead of 2. Okay, then we really are in poll position, because we are standing at the door that is supposed to be opened!


And then finally? the door opens and we all run inside. We jump down the stairs all the way to the left, and settle for a spot at the most left corner. I can only imagine what an absolutely hilarious sight it must be for a speed skater, doing some warming up on the ice, and then all of a sudden the doors are opened and you see a huge horde of wild fans galloping down the stairs!! And they are all shouting and yelling, like in a Braveheart scene or something.


But back to me, I jump down; following my friend in front of me. Unzip my coat; throw my rucksack on the floor. Dig up my special banner and start saving some space for it. It all goes so fast. I hear people closing in on us, people pushing and I?m trying to tape down my banner to the boarding. 4 people and 2 banners. One normal size, one is huge, so we need a lot of space. But then I look up at the ice rink. I believe I still have a piece of duct tape in my mouth and I see my favourite speed skater, Denny Morrison, waving at us! I forget about the waiting, the rain, the sore feet, the bruises and the lack of sleep: I?m all good now! This is why I did it all. I?m feeling happy and I just feel a huge grin breaking though on my face. Of course, with the duct tape in my mouth and my hands keeping the banner in place, there?s no room to wave back, but I don?t care!



Once we?ve settled down, the ice is almost empty. It?s almost 1 o?clock now, and within half an hour the Championships will start. We amuse ourselves by talking to other people and taking photos. I also have to defend my banner, because some steward thinks it represents a business and he is already trying to pull it down! I can only just prevent that from happening! This guy and I will never be friends! But with a bit of laughter and a joke the bad things of the weekend fade to the background.


Of course I?ve come to see a nice Championship and some nice speed skating at the stadium, but having a favourite out there on the ice, makes me focus on one person in particular and this gives a whole different perspective on how I?ve experienced this event. I try to spot the skaters we support the minute they step on to the ice. That?s a good 250 meters away from where we are standing. And also a good 250 meters to adjust the camera and get ready to show your support. In every possible way you can imagine. It?s good there is no sound to this blog, because we were trying to come up with some original noises to ?show our support?. Haha.


And you might think: how busy can someone be with all that? They only skate 2 distances per day, but being with 4 people, we keep an eye out for all our favourite skaters, being: Jan Bos, The Canadian team (Labrie, Morrison and Wotherspoon), H?vard B?kko, The Russians and Nick Pearson, and well, now that we?re at it, also the other Dutch skaters and the podium candidates, the Koreans, the Chinese and the Finnish guys, because they are really funny. We do this because it?s always nice to have a nice action shot of one of the medal winners. So pretty much half of the contestants.


I won?t bother you people with who skated which time or something, because you can read that elsewhere, and to be honest, I don?t remember a lot of the times and the races we saw. The entire day more or less consisted of clapping, shouting, cheering, taking pictures, filming and keeping an eye out for some interesting people, on the track and off the track.


The first day of the Championships is a long stand, the four distances take a pretty long time and I guess tomorrow the final will be more interesting. I?m almost relieved day 1 is over, because I can barely stay on my feet. We go home immediately. I upload my pictures and am pretty happy with the results of day 1. I review day 1 on MSN with an insider, so this day couldn?t have ended any better. That night I fall asleep almost immediately.


The next morning I?m pleased to wake up and not hear any rain against the window. We get ready for day 2, but once we get into the car, and drive up north, it?s raining? again! But, who cares, we will be there and it will be a fantastic day. We are a bit worried though. Because the waiting and the running on day 1 wasn?t really something we would want to do another time, but we have no choice: we have to.


Fortunately for us, we are having more fun than ever, and time is flying. But unfortunately for us, the walking/ running is even more painful and agonizing than it was the day before, but the result is alright in the end. First row, again. We are a bit surprised though, because when we enter the stadium, we are the first ones to enter, but there are already some people standing at ?our? spot. But there?s no time to think and we install ourselves a little bit more to the right. It turns out to be an even better spot for taking pictures, so everybody is happy.



Caat even brought the video camera, and that thing is the cause of some crazy moments. She asked me not to shout the way I normally do, because that is really loud on camera. We want a shot of Denny Morrison waving, but waving is not his favourite action on the ice. So, when he is slowly getting started and passing by in an abnormally slow pace, it?s THE perfect moment. We all think he?s going to wave, so we are just standing there. Surprised and giggly. Well maybe you should have been there to see us, to see the moment. To see Morrison, who is really confused why his ?fan club? is just gasping at him and you just have to see the video footage we shot, but the moment was hilarious. Maybe even more, because Caat was shouting at me: ?Say something you stupid dork, I?m filming!? And the rest she said, will not be repeated here... But she filmed it all, and when the next Canadian is skating by, we are cheering and he starts to wave very enthusiastically. Somebody in the background says: ?That?s how it?s supposed to be!? And the next shot is of H?vard B?kko, us shouting, and him waving in a very cool way.

Get the picture? Well, let?s just say it was very funny all together and once we?ll figure out how the footage can be put onto a computer, maybe we will share this with all of you.


But unfortunately, it?s not a day of just laughter. There are also big tears. Big fat tears of disappointment. Jan Bos is in pole position for the podium and he will race against Wotherspoon in the 500 meters, but at the crossover, he falls. The whole stadium is in shock. But once he stands up, the whole stadium starts singing ?Heia Jan Bos? and this over and over again, minutes and minutes long. I?m a bit nauseous but the show must go on?.


So no Dutch men on the podium, but it doesn?t really matter. Everybody in the Thialf is enjoying themselves and we all have a fabulous weekend. Vincent Labrie stops by when the races are over to give a gift and to thank us for our support and we are all in shock of such a nice way to say thanks. Once the medal ceremony is over, we are having some troubles leaving. We don?t want to leave; I can?t believe it?s over? So we hang around a bit more, take some pictures and that?s good timing, because on his way out, Denny Morrison is able to sign my banner. We are being kicked out of the stadium and once outside, we merge with the rest of the crowd. We are having dinner in an Italian restaurant in Heerenveen and are almost kicked out of the restaurant, because we are laughing too loud. Well, at least we?re having fun!


It?s 12 o?clock at night when I?m home again. I still can?t believe it?s over and I decide to upload my pictures to the computer right away. I?m pretty pleased with the results and that night I fall asleep with a huge grin on my face. It was worth every single bruise, punch and kick. It was worth the time, money and the effort and I wouldn?t have wanted to miss it for anything in the world.


But the last couple of days, I?m having a little bit of trouble trying to act normal and am coping with some serious withdrawal symptoms. Fortunately for me, I will soon go to the World Cup in Baselga di Pin?. Most of my favourite speed skaters won?t be skating there, but I?m sure, we won?t have to fight for a good spot! So... Until next time.

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