Why Are The Netherlands a Speed Skating Dominant Force? | Olympics on the Record

Why Are The Netherlands a Speed Skating Dominant Force? | Olympics on the Record


If you’re planning
a route to Olympic gold, here are some sports and
nations you may wish to avoid. In women’s ice hockey,
watch out for Canada. For rowing, don’t take on
Britain in the men’s four. Kenya just don’t lose when it comes to the 3000m
steeplechase. And nor do the Chinese ladies’
table tennis team. And here is another country
you can add to that list – the Netherlands, home of the
world’s best skaters. Not figure skating, not sprint skating – but long-distance speedskating. Despite the complete absence of
mountains, or even a hill in the entire country, the orange nation has a strong
record at the Olympic Winter Games. They’ve won 111 medals, of which 106 have come in
speedskating. They didn’t even win their
first medal until the 1952 Winter Games,
where they won three silvers. This was a promising
performance – but the Dutch were firmly
behind the mighty Norwegians. Little Netherlands had to wait until the Grenoble Games
of 1968 for their first Olympic gold. Three Dutch heroes – Kees Verkerk in the 1500m, Carry Geijssen in the 1000m and Ans Schut in the 3000m. When the next Olympics
came around in Sapporo in 1972, an expectant nation tuned in
hoping to find a hero, and they were not to be
disappointed. Ard Schenk was handsome,
charismatic, and the strongest skater
in the world. He won the 1500m,
5000m and 10000m, becoming a poster boy for what
became a national obsession. It did not quite come out of
nowhere. The Dutch have a long-standing
love affair with ice skating. Back in the 18th century, people were skating on these
frozen canals as a speedy way to get around. They like proper ice skating, preferably outdoors
in plunging temperatures. To turn their passion
into Olympic gold, the Dutch have invested heavily
in Olympic-size 400m tracks. There are two of these giant
facilities in the United States. The Netherlands has 17. Go on – you try it. That’s not bad, Nelly.
Not bad at all. The return on that investment
of time and effort came off spectacularly at the 2014 Olympic Winter
Games in Sochi. They started strong. On day one in the 5000m, Sven Kramer
set an Olympic record in leading his team to
a clean sweep of the medals. Day two, and Ireen Wust claimed the first gold for the
women in the 3,000m. Next up for the men was the
500m – a distance where even the Dutch
had no real heritage. This could have been an open
field. But it wasn’t. Michael Mulder edged out
teammate Jan Smeekens by just one 100th
of a second to take gold. And that’s Michael’s identical
twin brother Ronald, following them in to complete
a second clean sweep. Two men’s events in, and no other nation had even
made the podium. That would change in
the men’s 1000m, when Canadian Denny Morrison
squeezed in the final positions alongside
gold medallist Stefan Groothuis and Michael Mulder in bronze. When the men’s utter dominance
of the golds was broken, it was
only by the tiniest of margins. In the 1500m, Zbigniew Brodka of Poland
edged out Koen Verweij by just three 1,000ths
of a second. That’s 100 times faster than
the blink of an eye. In the women’s event,
Jorien ter Mors led the Netherlands to yet
another clean sweep, Ireen Wust and Lotte van Beek making up the podium. The longer distances are a particular favourite of the
Dutch. In the 10000m race, Jorrit Bergsma, Sven Kramer and Bob de Jong registered another clean sweep. What started on the opening day
of the Games would finish on the penultimate
in the team pursuit. As you would expect, it was
more gold for the Dutch – the men with a dominant
three-second victory over the South Koreans, and the women crushing Poland
by more than seven seconds. Their tally at the end of
the Games was astounding. Eight gold medals. Seven silvers. Eight bronze. Four podium clean sweeps – something that no nation had ever achieved in any Games
before. Global success – made in the Netherlands.

66 thoughts on “Why Are The Netherlands a Speed Skating Dominant Force? | Olympics on the Record

  1. Get your facts straight. The Netherlands does have hills in the best parts of the country. There are hills in the eastern en south-eastern parts. Not the whole country is flat….

  2. Netherland – Speed skating
    China – table tennis
    Russia – Wrestling,gymnastic
    UK – Cycle,Rowing
    USA – Snowboard,Swimming
    Germany – Luge

  3. Maybe because we have about 40 indoor speedskating tracks more than the USA in total, and some schools have skating for gymlesson. And if you are good at it and live in the north of the netherlands you can go to a special school in Groningen.

  4. I'm more shocked and surprised that the Dutch people are not that good in figure skating.

    I understand why they are not good in icehockey because you need bigger space for that and canals are not ideal for it but figure skating is cheaper sport than hockey (no pads, sticks, etc which costs money) and a canal is perfectly fine and big enough to practice figure skating. It's wierd they are not good with it….

    Very wierd. But I guess they might be too tall (Dutch people are one of the tallest in the world) for figure skating since most of the figure skaters are on the short sides = lower center of gravity and less likely to tip over.

  5. Well The Netherlands, or Holland,
    is Not such a little country!
    In terms of population it is almost as big as all Scandinavian countries together. There are hills by the way: up to 370 meters……

  6. My goodness, these Olympic Channel videos are so badly produced. They have some great footage but the narrator is terrible and they constantly get simple facts amazingly wrong. The graphic for the dominance of Canadian women's ice hockey shows gold medals in 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012. Do folks who work for the Olympic Channel really not know the years in which the Winter Games are held? For a reasonable fee, I will gladly proofread the copy for these features.

  7. As British/Scottish person I am kind of envious the Dutch (long track) speed skaters because it looks so liberating to go that fast using just the power of your own legs. In Britain we no long track ovals to do this type of skating, but I wished we did (even though l can't skate to save myself). Further, it feels like Britain is generally (with a few exceptions) also rans when it comes to winter sports.:(

  8. I love the examples given at the intro🙄 USA women’s hockey beat Canada in Pyongyang. The USA is dominant in so many sports I think is ridiculous they were left out completely.

  9. Let's jus not mention how sven krammers couch choked and made him do the inside lane twice resulting disqualification

  10. Off topic but you should just avoid Woman's Hockey all together because it's always the US and Canada in the Olympic Finals.

  11. Not to take anything away from the Dutch athletes but it also helps that this sport is almost impossible to practice in most any country which are not the Netherlands. I like to speed roller skates (just for fun, I am oldish), I had chance to try short track skates on ice but I have not idea
    where I could get into a long course ice track or even where could I buy the skates.
    In roller skating and short track you see a lot of Dutch but you see a lot of other country as well which
    probably could also produce good long distance skaters…if they had any facility.

  12. Zbigniew Bródka doesn't get enough credit of his amazing achievement, especially in the context of Dutch domination at that Olympics and no comparable conditions between NL and PL when it comes to training. No wonder Koen Verweij was furious – it was gold or nothing mentality for him.

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