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Anna Seidel ©International Skating Union (ISU) 1060374506 Anna Seidel (GER) ©International Skating Union (ISU)

The Germans are coming. That is the message coming quietly but confidently from team leader Anna Seidel and new national coach Stuart Horsepool as the penultimate ISU Short Track Speed Skating World Cup of the 2018/19 season got underway in Dresden, Germany. 

While both coach and star pupil candidly admit there is some way to go, a new intense training regime, coupled with great facilities and infectious enthusiasm, is pointing the way forward for the home nation.

Dresden resident Seidel has long been touted as one of the upcoming forces in Short Track and this year the 20-year-old has, under Horsepool’s guidance, begun to deliver.

Stuart Horsepool GER Coach Anna Seidel©International Skating Union (ISU) 2019020960504808 small

Stuart Horsepool and Anna Seidel ©International Skating Union (ISU)

“She has for a while been a good skater, a world-level skater but she hasn’t got the results, the consistency,” Horsepool said. “I told her when I first came (June 2018) that she needed to be challenged a lot more in daily training, not just on the physical side but in a tactical and mental way.

“So now she has to do a lot more leading and a lot more competitive-style training. It was difficult for her at first but she has embraced it.”

Anna Seidel WCST SLC18 ©International Skating Union (ISU) 1060371218

ISU World Cup Short Track 2018 Salt Lake City (USA) 1000m podium. From L to R Anna Seidel (GER), Alyson Charles (CAN), Ah Rum Noh (KOR) ©International Skating Union (ISU)

The rewards were almost instant. In November, Seidel stepped up and climbed on to a World Cup podium for only the third time to match her best result, winning silver in the 1000m in Salt Lake City. She also made the B final in the 1500m and on the back of such early season form climbed into the world’s top 10.

“I felt really confident in Salt Lake City,” Seidel explained, before she added quickly, “And I told myself, ‘I always want to feel this confident’.”

It is these types of results which have convinced Seidel and her teammates that Horsepool’s tough, new regime is worthwhile. The man himself is adamant that she, he and the whole squad are on the right track.

Anna Seidel GER ©International Skating Union (ISU) 904778690

Anna Seidel (GER) ©International Skating Union (ISU)

“It is my job to help them achieve their best performances,” said Horsepool, who led Great Britain’s Short Track programme for 16 years. “For Anna, if she does that she will start to build belief and then it will change for her. She will get on the podium regularly. That is what her talent deserves and the program in Germany can deliver that.”

Horsepool, who took the Latvian team to PyeongChang 2018 after four Olympic Games with Great Britain, gave an insight into the type of work he puts his skaters through on the sparkling ice in Dresden’s EnergieVerbund Arena.

“We have fast ice here and one of the pitfalls of having fast ice is that you always chase fast times instead of doing the hard work you need to do to improve the technical side of it,” he explained.

“I have been putting big traffic cones on the ice and they don’t like it because they are in the way and it makes it more difficult and gives them more to think about but that is what happens in races. What I am trying to do is get them to learn race craft. At the very top level that is what wins medals. You have to learn to win.”

Seidel knows it is working. Her regular one-lap times are down from around 9.0 seconds to 8.5 seconds and she is slashing seconds off her 1000m best in training. The fact that she now gets to show her progress in Dresden is hugely exciting.

“I have been skating here since I was nine years old,” she said. “This is where I learned everything. It means quite a lot to me, it’s my second home.”

Anna Seidel ESTSSC18 ©International Skating Union (ISU) 904842526

ISU European Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2018 1000m podium. From L to R Suzanne Schulting (NED), Arianna Fontana (ITA), Anna Seidel (GER) ©International Skating Union (ISU)

She also knows what it is like to excel in front of her own fans, having claimed bronze in the 1000m in the 2018 ISU European Short Track Speed Skating Championships. It didn’t quite work out the same way for the German at last month’s European Championships with a fall in her first race followed by penalties in the next two. But for her coach, such setbacks are an intrinsic part of the journey.

“She was gutted, obviously, very upset. She sets herself very high standards,” Horsepool said. “But I told her, ‘Remember how that felt, you don’t want to feel like that again’. It’s OK making a mistake, just don’t keep making them.”

Seidel has certainly already shown that she has the mental fortitude to heed Horsepool’s advice and move forward with confidence. Less than three years ago the German broke the 12th vertebra in her back.

“It was not easy for sure but I was always sure I wanted to go back on the ice. There was never a question if I would skate again,” said the skater who spent two weeks in hospital following her accident. “I think every big athlete has this kind of obstacle to overcome and I have had mine already, so I am done now.”

Watch Anna Seidel in action at the ISU World Cup Short Track event in Dresden (GER) this weekend on ISU YouTube Channel or the ISU Skating Channel