Impressive season for Stefan Groothuis
With his overall title at the World Sprint Championships in Calgary in January, a world title in the 1000m at the World Single Distances Championships in Heerenveen in March, and some outstanding results at the World Cups throughout the season, Stefan Groothuis looks back on a great season. Results that are even more impressive when you realize he spent the entire 2007-2008 season off the ice after an achilles tendon injury. After a well-deserved vacation, Groothuis reflects on what has been his best season thus far, and looks forward to the pre-Olympic season.
By Jolanda Abbes
How do you look back in general on the past season, and what would you consider to be the absolute highlight and greatest disappointment?
“Last season was absolutely the best so far! Two times world champion was something I was pretty close to over the past years, but now it finally happened. For sure World Sprints was the biggest highlight. Losing both the World Cup 1000m classification and the Grand World Cup standing in one last race in Berlin was the biggest disappointment of the season.”
How do you look back in general on the World Cups? Did they go according to plan, or do you feel you could or should have done some things differently?
“The first two World Cups were amazing, winning a 1500m for the first time in Chelyabinsk. I especially enjoyed the atmosphere in Chelyabinsk with a lot of speed skating fans watching the event!”
You accomplished your first world titles this year, at World Sprints and World Single Distances. Can you elaborate somewhat on what those titles mean to you?
“They mean a lot to me. Four years ago I started working with Jac Orie after a year of no skating at all because of an achilles tendon injury, and immediately skating was going great with winning the National Singles 1000m and the first World Cup 1000m in Berlin. But after that came some pretty big disappointments. In other interviews I already said a lot about this, so long story short, I finally managed to win two big championships!”
You captured the World Sprint title in Calgary after a great final 1000m. What would you consider to be your best distance there and can you give an analysis of that race?
“No doubt this was the last 1000m. This was by far the best race and even more special because it was a national record! I started the race with my best opener so far, racing with Arthur Was. I really felt I made a lot of speed, which made the first inner corner a bit exciting. Both inners weren’t perfect, but I didn’t lose any speed at all, which at that point of the race is most important. When I crossed the line I immediately saw it was a really fast time and was so happy I skated the national record and set the very fast time for the other competitors to beat!”
You finished first in the 1000m at the World Single Distances Championships in Heerenveen. Can you give an analysis of that race and describe what it was like to win a world title in front of your home crowd?
“World Sprints is for sure the most important, because of the difficulty of the event itself and because it was the first time for me winning a World Championship. But Heerenveen is very special because of the huge crowd cheering during and after the races. It’s like skating with a Jet Fighter flying next to you all the time, really amazing! And I was really happy to finally win the distance which I consider to be my best and which I was really close to the years before.”
How do you look back on your 1500m at the World Single Distances Championships and can you elaborate on Denny Morrison’s gold medal 1500m?
“I started the 1500m the way I start most of my 1500m’s: fast. I consider this to be the best way for me to skate this distance. Unfortunately, I wasn’t good enough to skate a good last lap and lost too much there. Which was for sure a disappointment because I was so close (21 hundredths of a second) to the title. But I also knew I wasn’t able to skate any faster in that race on that day, it was the best I had.
Denny skated a really strong race after a season which wasn’t as good as he can be. He had the balls to make a quick start as well and had some smart tactics and managed to skate directly behind Shani. He was able to be really good in that most important 1500m of the season and was the best on that day, which is a really impressive achievement!”
Which title means more to you: your World Sprint title or your 1000m title at the World Single Distances Championships?
“As I mentioned earlier, World Sprints is certainly is my favorite.”
How do you look forward to next season? What will be important points for you to focus on?
“Next season, I will focus on improving my last lap in the 1500m, as well as improving my first 100m. But there are still many more things to improve. Especially my corners are always an aspect of my skating I can still improve on a lot!”
Photo 1 and 3: DESGphoto/Lars Hagen
Photo 2: Jolanda Abbes