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Posted by speedskating-online on January 10, 2008 at 4:14 PM







Written by Naomi,

Dutch speed skating fan


Last weekend the Dutch Sprint Championships took place in Heerenveen. I couldn?t go there, but of course it was broadcasted live on television. Maybe hard to believe but both on Saturday and Sunday, we had 3 full hours of speed skating on TV. It made me long for the next competition I will attend: the World Sprint Championships, which will also be in Heerenveen, so we could say last weekend was a rehearsal.


But it seems like nobody really cares who actually wins the Dutch sprint title. Two weeks before the World Sprints, none of the Dutch speed skaters is sure if they will in fact race at the World Sprints. And I think that?s not right. I?m convinced that when skaters know they will start at certain competitions, they can focus better, prepare better for their upcoming races and overall will perform better.


Take a look at the Canadians. Jeremy Wotherspoon is the best in the 500m, no doubt about it. Speed Skating Canada pre-selected him for the upcoming World Sprint Championships, but nevertheless he skated some pretty amazing times at the Canadian Single Distances Championships and the third fastest time ever in the 500m right before he left for Europe.


But no, not in Holland. In Holland, it?s even after the Dutch Sprint Championships that a discussion will go on about who skated the best, who should have skated better or who deserves to go. And it?s this discussion that makes me so tired and makes me tend to like other skaters better. Of course, the skaters are not to blame for the variety of competition or the lack of predetermined guidelines. Or are they?


What about Mark Tuitert, for example? He?s a European All-round Champion and his best distances are the 1000m and the 1500m. He has decided not to race at the Dutch All-round Championships because he thinks the gap between him and a guy like Sven Kramer is too big. I have to say, it seems the gap is not only too big for Tuitert, but also for the rest of the world at this moment, but we will see what happens at the next all-round competitions. But Tuitert has acknowledged this and has decided to race at the Dutch Sprint Championships instead, in order to be nominated for a spot at the World Sprint Championships, because there is so much potential progress for him to be made in his 1000m and 500m. And don?t get me wrong, I like Mark Tuitert and I think all skaters should be able to race the races they want, but it?s just the twists and turns in this logic:


There is so much potential improvement for him to be made in the sprint distances, that he wants to give it a try. It?s like world record holder in the 500m, Jeremy Wotherspoon, would consider to compete in the 10K because there is so much room for improvement there for him. Let?s forget the fact that Sven Kramer would maybe lap him twice if they would be paired together, but at least there?s a personal best time waiting to be skated! Or what if the world record holder in the 10k, the same Sven Kramer, would decide to only race 500m?s at the World Cup circuit, because he knows his long distances are more than okay? Again, let?s forget the fact that Wotherspoon in his turn, would lap Kramer, if they would be paired together in a 500m race.


Again, don?t get me wrong, maybe change of food makes hungry and the skaters should be able to skate the distances they want and at the competitions of their choice. And exactly that is what?s the problem in Holland. We have so many skaters who are really good in so many distances. And there is only a limited amount of spots for Dutch skaters. And the Dutch just love the All-round Championships; they just can?t seem to get enough of it. Next week there is a skate-off for one or two spots at the World All-round Championships in Berlin, Germany. I believe 8 skaters will compete for those two spots and all 8 of them are considered to be favourites for those 1 or 2 places.


But how many races can a skater race? And how many races should a skater race at international competitions in order to improve him- or herself? As an outsider (I don?t skate myself) I would say, let the best skater win. But in Holland, it?s more a question of who will be racing at the next competition (at every competition over and over again). And when The Netherlands send somebody to an international competition, what?s more important? That this person will skate top 10 or even top 5 or that the skater will improve himself and gain experience for the rest of his skating career? In Holland, it always seems as if the skater with the best form of the day will go to the next round, but maybe it?s the skater?s plan to peak at the end of the season, when the real prizes are handed out?

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