The Dutch are dominating Olympic speed skating — they've won 16 medals already, setting an Olympic record, and swept the podium three times at Sochi — which is good for them, but bad for the sport, according to skating historian Marnix Koolhaus. By so thoroughly trouncing the other nations of the world, they could soon be the only country that cares enough to try.
(Spoiler Warning: Tuesday's race result below)
"The other countries don't have a chance and will raise their voices that the event should be ditched even louder," Koolhaas told The Netherland's Nos television. One of those countries upset about losing is Norway, but hasn't medalled in speed skating at all this year, has only four speed skating medals in the last 20 years. In fact, the entire Norwegian team dropped out of the 10,000m race, being held at 8:00 a.m. ET on Tuesday. (Results Update: The Dutch won all three medals. Again. And set an Olympic record.) The team said they wanted to focus on the team event later this week, while Koolhaas said it was "understandable" that they might drop out because they were going to lose.
That's a pretty big concession for an entire country since, according to the Norwegian Skating Association, skating is a "national sport." Håvard Bøkko, the Norwegian who everyone thought stood a chance against the Netherland's Sven Kramer, never placed higher than 6th in three events. He also dropped out of the 10,000m race. In a profile of Bøkko for the Norwegian paper VG (the profile that talked about how he might finally beat Kramer — he didn't) the poll to the right asked why the Netherlands are so good at speed skating. (At least, according to Google Translate.) About one third voted for the second option.
Margot Boer, who won bronze in the women's 500m and 1,000m events, says the country is peaking, and the results have been diverse. Eight of 24 medals have gone to other countries. Koolhaus thinks they should introduce quarterfinal races to make things more exciting. Sprinter Michel Mulder said the country should be proud they're so good, and the rest of the world should train harder.
What all Dutch people seem to agree on is that the international media has no idea why they're so good at speed skating. The Wall Street Journal suggested that "the Dutch have chosen one of the few sports that a country of the Netherlands' size could dominate." And the International Business Times suggested the Dutch like to skate on canals to visit relatives:
In the Netherlands, skating long distances on ice is a common practice for many, making it only natural they would have interest in distance speed skating in the Olympics. In winter months, skating is a sensible form of transportation, as commuters skate along frozen canals to visit family or friends who live many villages away.
Unfortunately, that theory sounds laughable to the Dutch. The Netherlands has been having a very warm winter, and also, to quote @MarjoleinCK from Rotterdam, "Eh? Wat?"
The last time I skated to school was in 1985, but who cares?! Hilarious story about Why the Duth love speed skating • http://t.co/q6GAaew7WS— Jacobine (@Jacobine1) February 13, 2014
As Koolhaas told the Associated Press last month, it's all about the facilities. "Dutch facilities are immense, while in many other countries we see a decline," Koolhaas said. "Domination can only increase."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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