Bringing his artistic skills on to the ice in more ways than one, Itzhak de Laat hopes to become the Netherlands’ next big Short Track Speed Skating name, wearing his self-designed helmets.
Since personalized helmets were allowed a few years ago, the Dutchman, who picked up the overall bronze medal at the recent ISU European Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Gdansk, Poland, has learned how to design them for himself and other skaters, finding inspiration in metal music.
“Short Track is a big thing in my life and being creative is another big part. And with my helmets I can really combine the two to be creative and express myself in the way that I want and still be able to skate with it,” the 26-year-old said.
“So I’m really proud of what I make and if I can wear that while skating it’s like the best of my two worlds combined.
“I am really happy that I can do that and that I can have the ability to express myself while skating the best I can.”
Itzhak de Laat (NED) at the ISU European Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2021©International Skating Union (ISU)
Growing up in the city of Leeuwarden in the north of the Netherlands, it did not take long before de Laat was standing on skates, joining a Short Track Speed Skating club at the age of eight.
“Ice skating is really a tradition where I come from so there wouldn’t be a life for me without skating. It’s really important to me,” he said.
Alongside top-class skaters such as Olympic silver medalist Sjinkie Knegt, and emerging talent including 19-year-old Jens van 't Wout, de Laat has claimed one World and three European 5000m Relay titles in teams representing Europe’s Short Track Speed Skating powerhouse.
And with a 1500m silver medal to his name from the Debrecen 2020 ISU European Short Track Speed Skating Championships, and bronze medals in the 500m and 1000m as well as overall from Gdansk this year, the ambitious de Laat is gunning for bigger things at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games.
The last year has offered a lot in terms of new challenges for the world’s Short Track Speed Skating elite but de Laat refuses to let that hinder his preparations for his second Olympic experience, having finished sixth in the 2018 PyeongChang 1500m.
“Although it’s really strange for me, and the past year has been really strange, it’s not too bad for me,” de Laat said.
“I just take it day by day.”