Olga Fatkulina (RSU) was born and raised in Chelyabinsk, where Speed Skating is a very popular sport. In times of economic hardship and personal despair, Speed Skating was her way out to build a better life. Olympic silver in the 500m at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi is the pinnacle of her career, “So far”, the 31-year-old sprinter adds with her characteristic smile. “But I hope to win more in the future.”
Reigniting the British Speed Skating tradition, that’s what Ellia Smeding, Cornelius Kersten are after. “Great Britain has a great Speed Skating history, but it’s forgotten”, says Kersten. The British Speed Skating couple aims at the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing and set up their own coffee company to finance their campaign.
“Growing up, I was playing every sport under the sun”, says Brittany Bowe (USA) with a smile. Had she not become an Olympic Speed Skater, she might have been a professional basketball player. Having won five world titles and an Olympic bronze medal, the 33-year-old sprinter is proud of her achievements so far: “I’ve checked almost everything of my list of goals, but there’s one thing that’s outstanding, an Olympic gold medal.”
He’s been around in international Speed Skating for ten years, but the best is yet to come for Laurent Dubreuil. Last January the Canadian followed the footsteps of his legendary countryman Jeremy Wotherspoon, winning 500m gold at the ISU World Speed Skating Championships in Heerenveen. Although both his parents were Olympic Speed Skaters, Dubreuil’s choice of sports was his own. “To me, nothing was as much fun as Speed Skating,” he says.
When Joel Dufter (GER) crashed in the 500m at ISU World Cup Speed Skating races in Heerenveen in January, he put the track markers back in place before getting up again. “I crashed in the corner and it was a mess. I thought it was the right thing to do,” he laughs. It says a lot about his character.
She was 14 months old when she had her first pair of inline skates, but only at age seventeen Francesca Lollobrigida she had her first taste of ice skating in Baselga di Piné. “I was in my inline suit with short sleeves and all the ice skaters were looking at me, what is she going to do?” Looking back she laughs about it. Over the years Lollobrigida has become a household name in International Speed Skating.
An Olympic medal in Speed Skating for Spain? It never happened before, but that doesn’t stop Nil Llop (ESP) from dreaming. The 20-year-old Catalan believes in opportunities, even when it’s against all odds. After a training accident in 2018, doctors said that he would never be able to skate again but one year later he became ISU World Junior Champion at the World Roller Games. Llop combines roller skating with ice skating because he strives to be an Olympian.
The Speed Skating Season came to a climax in the Heerenveen Hub this weekend with the ISU World Speed Skaitng Championships 2021. Check out a selection of some of the best pictures captured.
She makes it look easy, but it’s years of hard work paying off. Femke Kok came, saw and conquered four 500m gold medals straight from her first A division start in the ISU World Cup Speed Skating this season. “As a kid I never won anything,” she smiles subdued. Growing up in Drachten near Heerenveen, with parents who both practiced Speed Skating themselves, Kok was raised on the famous Thialf ice rink.
“The coffee is great.” Peter Kongshaug smiles. Apart from Speed Skating, good coffee is another passion the 19-year-old newbee in the Norwegian squad shares with his older team-mates. After winning the junior title in the 1000m at the ISU World Junior Speed Skating Championships last season, Kongshaug was promoted to the senior selection last summer.
“I’ve never seen anybody doing what he does’, says Sweden coach Joël Eriksson admiringly about Nils van der Poel. “He’s an unbelievable kid.” The 24-year-old stunned the international Speed Skating world when he broke the nine-year-old track record the 10,000m in Inzell at a training race last December. It was his first official race after a two-year absence from Speed Skating. He was in the army and competed in ultrarunning instead. “There’s a lot of different ways that lead to Rome”, Van der Poel says without the slightest hesitation.
“The #OneGoodThing is of course that we can still do what we love,” says Francesca Lollobrigida (ITA) with a melancholic smile. “We were lucky to skate here outside with a pretty view in Baselga di Piné. Last week we had snow, but now the weather has come around nicely.” The 2018 ISU European Mass Start Speed Skating Champion had to postpone all her ambitions professionally and privately, due to COVID-19 restrictions in 2020.
He had his breakthrough year last season, crushing the 10,000m world record to take the ISU World Speed Skating title at age 22 in Salt Lake City. The future looked bright for Graeme Fish (CAN) last February, but like so many others he had to put his ambitions on hold when the international sports world came to a halt due to COVID-19.
The Russian Speed Skaters hope to be able to compete internationally at the ISU European Speed Skating Championships and the ISU World Cups in the Heerenveen hub in January, but their run-up to the shortcut season has been difficult due to the COVID-19 restrictions. Paweł Abratkiewicz (POL), coach of the Russian ladies, travelled a bumpy road to be able to guide his athletes on the ice.
Speed Skating is the fastest human powered, non-mechanical aided sport in the world, at least that’s what National Geographic concluded in a sports overview of the Winter Olympics in Sochi 2014.