26 March 2012

Season is OVER, crazy Dutch fans, and more...

The Kleintje Pils
Yesterday at the famous Thialf in Heerenveen in the Netherlands, the World Single Distance Championship (equivalent to the Olympics non-Olympic year) and the 2011-2012 speedskating season wrapped up. Thialf is one place you want to race at if you are a speedskater. The fans are crazy...decked out in everything orange and wild (see pics below), but they are the key to the best competition atmosphere a speedskater could ever desire. The best part of Dutch speedskating fandom is the marching, the Kleintje Pils (the Dutch even go so far as bringing their own marching band with them to speedskating events all over the world). I can vividly remember my first time racing there for a world cup, I just could not get over how much they loved watching us race; I just wasn't used to that love they had for speedskating (and it's all speedskaters, not just the Dutch!). It was stimulating, and to use that stimulation for your race is huge for your performance. To see how wonderful yet crazy the crowd is, read this awesome article in the Time magazine, or it is also captured after the 10k race in the video link below...

Thankfully I was able to watch most of the races live, but it was also bittersweet. I had hoped to have raced in the TP today, but with my injuries and ups/downs all year, I was not chosen to be on the team and so watching and wishing I was there hurt. Let it be fuel for the fire...

Got to love this guy :)
What a weekend of racing it was, though...Canadians (Christine and Denny) busting out some amazing World Titles, the US Team bringing home hardware (Brian, Shani and Kuck took 2nd in today's TP; and in indiv. races Kuck, who took 3rd in the 10k with one of his best performances this year as well as 3rd also in the 5k and Shani, who placed 3rd in the 1000m...results can be seen here, and click on the event you want) along with the typical Dutch domination. But the 10k on Saturday, the long (25 laps around a 400m rink) and mostly uninteresting race of them all, was the inspirer. In the second to last pair, Jorrit Bergsma goes out and mainly by himself, races a fantastic race...under 13min with a 12:57, for Heerenveen ice, that is fast. Setting the bar high, it was Bob de Jong, the defending World Champion, and this race, that on which all eyes were glued. Could he beat Jorrit? Was it in him? Of course it was...Bob is amazing at racing a strategic and exciting race, but we all just had to wait and see.

From the start, Bob goes out slower, but steady...keeping a pace a couple tenths slower each lap than Jorrit and for a while, the seconds kept adding up to where around lap 15, Bob was upwards of 4 seconds slower. To those who knew Bob, if there is a World Title at stake, at this point, he was no where near his potential...it was about lap 15 where Bob started kicking it into 4th gear. Slowly but surely he was gaining ground, but the question was, would he do it in time to beat Jorrit? Haha, I laugh because how can we doubt Bob's ability? He's done this over and over...with 4 laps to go, Bob was exactly 2 seconds behind...now at this point in a race, a typical skater is burning, numb, drooling, becoming delirious (honestly, I don't know and cannot say much, I've never raced a 10k, YET...), but Bob has just begun to burn his last fuel in his reserve engines. 3 laps to go, he is +.49seconds...everyone is on the edge of their seats...poor Jorrit has to watch this whole race to see if he wins the title or Bob defeats him. 2 laps and Bob pulls ahead... -1.27 seconds...and to show how amazing Bob is, his last lap was a negative split meaning he went faster on his last lap than the one before, amazing especially after already racing 24 laps. Finishing with a 12:53...3.80 seconds faster than Jorrit and skating a 29.9 second last lap, Bob is an athlete like no other. For any of you who would like to watch this race, I highly recommend it! Yes, it is a long race so if you want to fast forward to minute 6:50...watch it from that point on...click here to view. At the finish, it also reveals how amazing the fans at Thialf are with their love for their native schaatsen sport...we speedskaters love you all! :)
Bob de Jong and I in 2010, credit thanks to Meijco van Velzen

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