Ted-Jan Bloemen started his maiden Olympic campaign with a silver medal in the 5000m on Sunday. The 31-year-old endurance specialist couldn’t have done it without the help of Team Canada. “I chose a different path, and it turned out better than I could have hoped,” he said after the race.
Bloemen was born and raised in the Netherlands, but he holds dual nationality. His family used to live in Canada and his father was born there. After missing out qualification for the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games, Bloemen decided to move to Canada.
Hard but also easy
“I did not make the progress I believed I could make in the Dutch system with all the trade teams. Deep inside I had the feeling that I could do something special on the ice.”
In Canada Bloemen found happiness, not only on but also off the track.
“It was a hard decision, but in the end it was also easy. I always felt at home right from the start because I had such great people around me and my wife came over, well she was my girlfriend back then. I’ve just been so happy for the last four years in my life.”
Bloemen says he was able to train in a more relaxed atmosphere than he could in the Netherlands.
“It’s less stressful. In Canada there’s only one team, the National Team. I did not have to worry about losing my spot in the team every year. That means you don’t have to focus on one season, but you can also plan ahead and try to improve for the seasons to come.”
The Canadian team bonding was very important to Bloemen.
“Canada is a big country but all speed skaters train together in Calgary, where everyone makes friends with people from all over the country. That’s different from the Netherlands, where speed skaters have their own groups of friends already from a young age. There’s more strife and conflict.”
Not your typical athlete
The Team Canada long track speed skaters are coached by Dutchman Bart Schouten. Bloemen owes a lot to him.
“Bart is the architect of our program, but he’s not only the coach. He also makes sure that we’re behaving well outside the training, that we’re happy and that we are doing the right thins 24/7.”
Bloemen said in the past that he might not have accepted the things Schouten demands from his pupils when he was younger.
“I have matured a lot over the years. When I was younger I wasn’t your typical athlete and I had a lot of trouble with the discipline of living in the right way for your sport, and giving up all the things for it.
“I’m more consistent now. I used to be able to do a good performance every once in a while, but to do a really, really good performance you need to do a good performances every time, and then you can do a really good one once in a while. That consistency is something we worked on a lot, to make my weak point my strong point.”
More events to come
Despite being happy with the silver medal, Bloemen thinks he still hasn’t lived up to his real potential in PyeonChang just yet, but he still has the 10000m and the Team Pursuit to come.
“It’s a long program. I have to be in shape for a long period of time. We tried to get in shape as late as possible so that we could maintain it throughout the tournament. It was a strong race today, otherwise you can’t get a silver medal. So we made it in time, but there’s still that last little bit of… It’s a very rhythmic movement. It’s a kind of a tunnel you’re going in, almost hypnotic. Sometimes you get your strides going and you just flow to the finish. It’s still hard, but less hard, and you can get more out of yourself in that way in a long distance. That rhythm is what I’ll be llooking for the next couple of days.”