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Aussies on ice: Desly Hill

Australian speed skating is on the rise with athletes like Daniel Greig and Joshua Lose, who both successfully made the transition from inline skating to speed skating on ice. Important for both athletes’ careers and for this crossover was, and still is, their coach Desly Hill. For the third and final part of our series on Australian speed skating, Speedskating-online talked to Hill about Greig and Lose, and about the international group of skaters that seems to benefit so much from Hill’s skills and experience.

By Jolanda Abbes

How did you get started with the team that you are now coaching?
“We started out as a group of inliners that could not really ice skate at all. We lived in Enschede (the east of Holland) where they were kind enough to open the rink at 7 am for us to get on without too much public. Elma de Vries (Netherlands) and Alexis Contin (France) joined the group to help with the technical aspects and train with them to emphasise the fun part of their training program, and it worked! After one season we got World Cup qualifying times for three Aussies and one kiwi. Also Elma and Alexis plus one Aussie (Sophie Muir) made it to Vancouver (15months later)! Daniel missed by less than 0.07 of a second and Josh made it but then got bumped off by the small country rule. That group has evolved now due to everyone being able to skate properly. I coach the Dutch national inline team and the Aussies are a part of that training group that’s based in Heerenveen ( they are financially supported by the Australia institute of sport). They are all very good inline skaters and they make the training in summer more ‘uncomfortable’ for my Dutch athletes, which is great. We’ve also had some other skaters do the same kind of thing for the group but in different areas. This year we will have skaters training together from Holland, Australia, Switzerland and Denmark... maybe even Colombia. The thing that is required is they must bring an excellent attitude and be able to give an added extra to the group in some way. The national short track team works in a similar way using the foreign athletes to create competition. I’m lucky that my boss Harry Oosterhuis (inline topsport coordinator for KNSB) understands what I’m doing and he has been in it with me since the beginning. It was important that I learned both sports of inline and ice speed skating in order to be a better coach in Holland. The Aussies provided me with a path to continue my learning at an international level where I’m most comfortable. Harry is happy as everyone involved in the program has just gotten faster and faster. We are also lucky that KNSB supports us with this innovative strategy, which has the benefit of allowing the sport of long track to grow stronger, while also making the national inline team very successful.”

What would you consider to be the most important strengths of both Daniel and Joshua, and what things could be improved upon?
“Josh is the type of guy that does exactly what you say, with an occasional question maybe, and he always does it to the best of his ability. It’s a pleasure to work with a guy like him, he is easy to coach. Daniel may want to debate a few things but usually these days it’s with good reason, he loves to study details and he is very technical minded and when he’s feeling good, he is quite helpful and directs his knowledge toward the whole training group. Both guys love learning and they are very, very motivated and willing to kill themselves to get to the Olympic Games and show what they have. I’m very proud of them! To get to the level they have in ice skating in a very short time, you can understand that they would have had many things to improve, that never stops, no matter what level you get to. The guys are constantly trying to get better at everything they do, so I would say it’s overall and 'everything' they do needs improving and as you learn more, there is more you find that needs work. They are very hard workers but in general getting technical automation would be the thing that needs most effort at this stage.”

How do you look back on Daniel’s and Joshua’s seasons?
“I’m proud of them! I always have trouble enjoying success because as soon as the race is over I see ways we could have been better and it’s not easy for me to think about anything else until I find answers. It’s easy with these guys though because I just have to think back to where we started and to where we have come and then I know it’s going well.”

How do you look forward to the next season and the years to come until Sochi 2014?
“We have set our goals: they are big ones and we are going for it. This year they want a top 5 and to be better at the start of the season, each year toward Sochi... better than that. So far we have achieved most things we set out to do, so they are confident they can do it!”

Photo credits: DESGphoto/Lars Hagen