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World Single Distances Championships in Inzell

Posted by speedskating-online on May 6, 2011 at 12:24 PM

Written by Lisa Solbach, german speed skating fan

Ever since I was a little girl my parents had taken me to Inzell and the famous skating rink for vacation. I used to watch Anni Friesinger and other world class athletes exercise while I was skating on the hockey rink of the open air arena. Therefore, I was pretty excited when I heard that they were going to tear down the old oval. And when it was finally settled that the World Single Distances Championships 2011 were to take place in the newly built Max-Aicher-Arena, I went completely out of my mind. I could not wait for the tickets to go on sale! But when I was finally able to plan my trip to Inzell, I only got tickets for the competitions on Friday, March 11. After initial disappointment I realized that it was still going to be an amazing week. After all, my personal speed skating dream would still come true because I had never been to World Championships before.

After an eight hour drive, I arrived in Inzell on Monday evening. First thing in the morning, I went to the new arena to see what it was like. I was overwhelmed and impressed with the extraordinary construction of the roof and the new skating rink, which is much faster than the old one. I even had the chance to watch the training of the Canadians and the Americans. This immediately put me into a “trance-like” condition – I'm always amazed by the skaters' elegance on the ice. Watching them really makes me forget everything else. From then on I went to the arena everyday just to see if I could catch a glimpse of what was going on inside. Most of the time I had to press my face against one of the windows, since I didn't have tickets for all competitions. But that was fun, too!

Another dream came true when the training was over. I met some athletes of my favourite team: Canada. Mathieu Giroux, Christine Nesbitt, Cindy Klassen, Lucas Makowsky, Shannon Rempel, Anastasia Bucsis and Muncef Ouardie signed my Canadian flag, which I had brought to Inzell as a mojo for the Canadian skaters. It really meant a lot to me to meet Lucas and Christine. They have been my favourite skaters for quite a long time now, so I was pretty excited to actually meet them. The fact that they are also successful Olympians only added to my nervousness.

During that week in Inzell I really enjoyed the vibrant and yet cozy atmosphere in town. No matter where you looked, there were athletes everywhere – on their bikes, running, shopping at the local supermarket or just enjoying the sun in one of the cafés. One time I was sitting outside the “Rathaus-Café” and suddenly I heard people speaking Dutch everywhere around me. Unfortunately, I did not understand what they were saying but they all seemed to be pretty excited. Two seconds later, I realized what they were talking about. Dutch speed skaters Annette Gerritsen and Margot Boer were taking a break from their training and had a cup of coffee. Some minutes later even more Dutch athletes were coming to the café. I would definitely enjoy having coffee next to three tables full of top athletes again!

Wednesday night was the time of the opening ceremony. The crowd cheered on the athletes from all over the world and welcomed ISU president Ottavio Cinquanta, who officially opened the 13th World Single Distances Championships. Thursday was to be the first day of competitions with the women's 3000 m and the men's 1500 m. With a track record of 4:01.56, Ireen Wüst raced to her first gold medal of that weekend. However, it was the men's race that really made my day. Lucas Makowsky won the bronze medal in a race he had dominated until the final pair. I always knew he could do it! But Håvard Bøkko and Shani Davis raced even faster and so it was Bøkko, who won the first gold medal of his career after a time of 1:45.04. I just wish I had been there to see this myself!

On Friday I was finally part of the audience inside the arena. Amidst a group of Norwegian speed skating fans I was the only one cheering for Canada but I sure spotted several supporters of the Maple Leaf on the other side of the rink. However, Friday did not prove to be a particularly good day for Team Canada. I felt sorry for Lucas, who wasn't nearly as successful as the day before. Unfortunately, something seemed to be going wrong – he only finished 21st in the 5000 m race. But I was confident that he would be successful again in the TP. Sadly, none of the other Canadian skaters made it on the podium, neither in the men's 1000 m nor in the women's 1500 m. Nevertheless, five Canadians achieved a top 10 result that day and I think this is also something they can be proud of. This team's closeness is just incredible.

After a break from speed skating on Saturday, I was stuck to the TV again on Sunday to watch the Team Pursuits. Wow! After watching Christine Nesbitt, Britanny Schussler and Cindy Klassen win gold for Canada I had to wait for the final pair of the men's TP to see whether the guys would be equally successful. This final race of the weekend was probably the closest I've ever seen! My eyes were fixated on the screen and I kept my fingers crossed. Well, I did not only cross my fingers – I held my breath and almost tore my flag because of the tension. I really wanted Lucas, Denny and Mathieu to win gold – just like they did in Vancouver. They were ahead of the Americans most of the time, so I was pretty confident they would win. In the end, their 2nd place was great and I was just as happy as if they had finished 1st. After all, it was the most gripping race of the entire weekend! 0.13 seconds – I guess that's less than the blink of an eye.

I really had a great time during that week in Inzell but it went by so quickly! All I can do now is wait and prepare for the next season – I'm already looking forward to returning to the oval to cheer on the best skaters in the whole wide world!

Click here for a video of the opening ceremony.

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