Why Are the Dutch So Dang Good at Speed Skating?

Dutch golden medals

There have been so many distractions surrounding these Winter Olympics — the uproar over "Sochi problems" and Norway's glorious curling pants, for starters — that you'll be forgiven for overlooking speed skating, one of the games' less-heralded sports.

Here's what you've missed: Complete and total Dutch domination in both men's and women's speed skating, a clinic so professional and thorough that you need not follow the sport at all to appreciate the Netherlands' utter omnipotence in Sochi.

At time of writing, the Dutch were tied for the Olympics lead in overall medals, with a total of 20. Nineteen of those — six golds, six silvers and seven bronzes — are from speed skating. The other one, a bronze, is from what's known as "short track," a variant of the same sport. (The United States' 20 medals, by comparison, are spread across seven sports.)

Four times in Sochi, Dutch speed skaters have swept the podium, taking gold, silver and bronze in the same event. Before the men's 10,000-meter race on Tuesday — the latest Dutch sweep — Norway's entire team pulled out with an excuse about focusing on a later team relay.

But just why the Dutch own the rest of the world when it comes to speed skating is a little harder to figure out.

Marrit Leenstra of the Netherlands compete during the women's 1,000-meter speed skating event at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on Feb. 13.
Here are some things we do know: The Dutch are among the world's tallest people. Logic dictates that longer strides allow skaters to cover more ground. Speed skating is not among the world's most popular sports, so it has a shallower talent pool than many others. As a people, the Dutch are probably more into speed skating than any other nationality.

"Everyone is part of this world," Peter Kolder, a youth coach of Dutch speed skating legend Sven Kramer, told the Associated Press in January before the Netherlands' brilliant run began. "There is pressure to perform from young age. Look at the kids — they all want to become Sven."

The same article asserts that speed skating is surpassed by only soccer as the Netherlands' wintertime sport of choice. (The country's remarkably flat geography means sports like skiing or snowboarding provide little competition.) Soccer already provides a precedent for Dutch sporting excellence springing from a shared national athletic obsession. The Dutch possess one of the world's most fearsome national soccer teams despite a small population, and even have their own trademark playing style, known the world over as "Total Football."

The Netherlands' Irene Wust and Team USA's Brittany Bowe (back) compete during the women's speed skating 1,000-meter race at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on Feb. 13.
Indeed, speed skating's roots as a Dutch athletic endeavor may even rival those of soccer. "It's in our genes," skating historian Bert van Voorbergen told the BBC in 2012. "We've been skating for centuries."

That apparent genetic predisposition is perhaps most manifested in the Elfstedentocht — or "Eleven Cities Race" — a 125-mile skating race across natural ice that can feature more than 10,000 skaters, according to the BBC. The race is revered in Dutch lore, was first held in 1909 and only occurs in years with particularly cold winters. (The most recent Elfstedentocht was in 1997; the most recent before that in 1986.)

More collective passion leads to more individual opportunity. The AP reports that the entire United States has just two official-sized indoor speed skating ovals for its 315 million residents — while the Netherlands, a nation of less than 17 million, has a total of 17 regulation training facilities for a geographical area about twice the size of New Jersey. As speed skating journalist and historian Marnix Koolhaas told the AP: "Dutch facilities are immense, while in many other countries we see a decline. Domination can only increase."

So take centuries of history, some genetic bonuses, geographical factors and a national passion for the sport. Then add in economic opportunity — Dutch speed skaters can actually make professional livings; attempting to do so in the United States would likely get you laughed back to Europe. Does all that explain the Netherlands' on-ice dominance?

Not quite, but one thing is definitively clear: Now, more than ever, is the time to welcome our Dutch speed skating overlords. They'll be sticking around for quite. Some. Time.

(Source: Mashable.com)


18 Nov 2018 - 08:39

Who's new

  • Joris
  • OCS
  • locje
  • Charlotte
  • Rutger Westen
  • Martijn van Beek
  • FUH
  • Rozemarijn
  • Eveline
  • Kevin Verburg

"No taste..."

"The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste."

* Steve Jobs in 'Triumph of the Nerds' (1996)

Crew Onboard

There are currently 0 users and 52 guests online.

Recent comments

Popular Callsigns


TRApple.nl is 'Affiliate Free'  We are totally independent and have no affiliations with Apple, Boeing, TESLA or any other gadget provider what so ever. We reserve the right to refer to ourselves as ‘we’ and be as partial as we like. If you don't like that, stop consuming our bandwidth.
Have a good flight...

Company Freq.

You're not permitted to post shouts.
Willem-JanSinds 2 dagen werkt iTrans niet meer bij mij, is er een update ?? gr, WJ17 May 2017 - 08:24
Willem-JanGoedemorgen all,17 May 2017 - 08:24
KoenBeste trapple, Heb sinds kort een one plus 3t met android versie 7. Als ik in de standby app een datum wil selecteren dan sluit de app zich. Daarna moet je alles weer invoeren oftewel de app is niet te gebruiken. Groetjes, Koen Schimmel11 Feb 2017 - 11:17
AwesomeThx, Cees, for your donation to keep TRApple & eTRA safe and stable.27 Mar 2015 - 10:33
Awesome@steven: http://trapple.nl/content/agenda-niet-te-zien19 Feb 2015 - 18:53