Netherlands Strikes Gold Again at Winter Olympics

By Kelvin Bras and Guido Cocconi

February 18, 2022. Thomas Krol takes Olympic gold on the 1000 meter in speed skating after tensely watching the last pair skate.

The gun goes, Krol starts his race. He starts okay, slowly building his speed with each round. Krol needs to put down a good time to make it work. He has been training for this moment for four years. Nothing matters right now, just him, ice, and speed. He put down a time under 1 minute and 8 seconds, the only skater capable of this so far. Now he has to wait, but not for long – there’s only one pair left before he knows if he has won the gold.

After his race he sits in first place. Krol waddles back to the middle of the ice rink and sits down. It’s the 18th of February and this is the last race Krol will have at this year’s Olympics. His last chance for gold.

It’s the Canadian Dubreuil, and countryman Kai Verbij’s turn—Krol’s main competitors. With a stern look, Krol watches the big jumbotron in the middle of the stadium. He is in first place and Verbij and Dubreuil are progressing. In an exciting race Krol seems both calm and slightly worried. Verbij is chasing his time; he’s running in in in, misses a tenth, gains a tenth, then gets a cramp and stops skating. Dubreuil smells his opportunity and speeds up. But in the end it just was not enough and Krol takes home the Olympic gold.

Krol’s success comes after the grandiose success obtained by the Dutch women. 2 gold medals, one silver and one bronze; and that’s just what Suzanne Schulting did. After each race you could hear Schulting’s roars all the way back in the land of cheese and windmills. Still, the Dutch speed skating men had a good 2022 Olympics. With 5 medals, 2 gold and 3 silver divided amongst Patrick Roest, Kjeld Nuijs and Thomas Krol, the Dutch speedskaters did what they had to do.

Krol had a good race. He started off slow, at least slow for a speed skater; which is like a 80km an hour. He then finished beautifully, had some luck because his opponents were sloppy, and of course masterfully hit the apexes in each corner. Krol was a favorite to win the race. With silver in his suitcase and two world cup wins on the 1000 meter this year, he was in good form. And he proved it, almost riding an Olympic record.

“It’s so incredibly tense, having to wait if a time is enough. I didn’t think it would be enough after my ride,” Krol says to Eurosport straight after the game. Krol seemed elated after his victory. The pressure was finally off.

All ice-skate lovers in the Netherlands were also watching Krol’s exploits. “He was the man to beat, so there was high pressure on his shoulders, it’s his first gold medal, his time wasn’t that fast and it was nail-biting to watch,” Stein Bouma, commissioner of the Groningen student skate union, says in an interview with 9to5.

But what is it about skating that makes it such an enticing Olympic sport? Seeing these athletes run through corners at the speed of a car is equally scary and mesmerizing. “Flying through the corner and feeling the pressure on the legs, the wind flowing in your hair and just going really fast, it’s a magic feeling, I start smiling when I talk about it” Bouma continues.

That’s something you see in all skaters. Both professional ones and recreational. It’s a love for the thrill and there is no other thrill like winning a gold medal.

The Olympics are ending in two days. So far Dutch athletes have performed above expectations. With successes in some unexpected areas and setbacks in others, the overall feeling is that the current medal list is an accurate representation of the country’s performances.

Medal progression of countries

In the end, the Olympics are not really about how much your country wins. It’s about enjoying sports which ask extreme commitment and a love for the discipline. When you see someone like Krol stoically sliding through an apex at 80km an hour, and then see how nervous the guy gets while he’s waiting for his opponents to finish, it puts things into perspective. Winning gold at the Olympics is no small feat. It makes men cry and others gaze in awe of human strength.

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