Q: What exactly are you doing Daniel?
A: I’m living in Enschede, the Netherlands. I am training to represent Australia at the next Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver in the sport of long track speed skating.
Q: Why the Netherlands?
A: It’s a long way away from everything so it has a very “band camp” feel. Just kidding. The Dutch are the best in the world at this sport. Sure, world champions often come from other countries, but overall, speed skating is strongest in Holland. Not only that, it is the second biggest sport here after football (soccer) so there are diverse and widespread sponsorship opportunities to help sustain our cause. The public interest is also very high which is kinda cool and gives us a bit of celebrity status. Facilities are excellent and there are many opportunities to race because of the very widespread participation in the sport over here.
Q: So what’s this team that you’re training with?
A: This “project” was the brainchild of our coach, Desly Hill. She used to skate inline for Australia and won 4 world titles, then she became the Australian coach. After doing that for a while she became the Dutch coach. Recently, she began this project to grab a bunch of inliners (I’m still unsure about how we were chosen) and teach them to ice skate and take them to the olympic games. We have the help of Jildou Gemser, a dutch coach of some repute, to assist with the more ice-specific technical aspects of the sport. We also have the assistance of Rogina de Jong, another experienced skater/coach. The actual team of skaters is as follows:
Wayne Begg (New Zealand)
Alexis Contin (France)
Elma de Vries (Netherlands)
Daniel Greig (Australia)
Brooke Lochland (Australia)
Joshua Lose (Australia)
Sophie Muir (Australia)
Daniel Yeow (Australia)
We also have a dietician/chef/personal trainer to assist us in the form of Chris Hunt, Sophie’s boyfriend. The list of skaters may not mean much to many readers but between all of us are dozens of medals from inline world championships. In fact, I am the only member of the team who hasn’t finished in the top 5 at world championships at some stage.
Q: Hadn’t you retired from the sport?
A: Yes. Well, sort of… not really. After emerging from 8 years and two degrees worth of university with my life and sanity more or less intact, and with a rather terrible economy making my job prospects not-great, when Des asked whether I wanted to be part of the project, I was more than happy to hop on board.
Q: How long are you planning on doing this for?
A: Planning? That word doesn’t often enter into my vocabulary… at least until the 2010 Olympics, after which I will probably reassess my life.
Q: Doesn’t it cost a lot to train full time?
A: Yes, it does. But I’m not paying for it, the sponsors have it covered. We live in a bunch of apartments at a resort and train at a brand new ice rink at a theme-park-esque location called go-planet. For some inexplicable reason, the owners of this place love us and we get to use the whole place for free. The restaurant at Sterren Paradijs provides us with breakfast and lunch. We get to use the gym facilities for free, and as if that wasn’t good enough, we have our own special room (which is many many times bigger than my New York apartment was) in which we keep our own training apparatus for our own exclusive use. Skating equipment and even clothing are provided.
Q: Are ice skates sharp?
A: yes and no. Contrary to popular belief, the bottom part of an ice blade is flat. If it were like a knife edge and came to a point, it wouldn’t glide and putting pressure on the ice would cause the blade to become stuck in the ice (which is the opposite of gliding). When we say “sharpen the blades” what we really mean is grind that flat edge to a high degree of polish and ensure that the “edges” are as close to 90 degrees as humanly possible. That being said, it is still possible to cut yourself on your ice blades (as I discovered one cold wednesday morning). I might write an article about the ins and outs of ice blades in the near future.
Q: How do you qualify for the Olympics?
A: Ok, this is fairly strange. For the guys’ 500m, 1000m, or 1500m there are 40 “spots” in the olympics (for the 5000m there are 28 and for the 10000m, 16). To get one of these spots first your country has to qualify for a spot in the ISU world cup events leading up to the games. So, for the 500m (my event). There are 40 spots. The first 20 of those spots are qualified for by world cup rankings, the remaining 20 by time ranking. But these are countries spots… for example, if the US had a skater in 3rd, 10th and 19th say, in the world cup rankings, then they have 3 spots which they may fill at their discretion, regardless of which skaters achieved those rankings (this is an absolute headache for the stronger countries). The maximum number of skaters from any country is 4. But wait, there’s more.
The Australian skating body won’t let anyone skate in a world cup unless they skate a time within 110% of the meet record for that particular track. So, for example the record for the Berlin world cup for the 500m is 34.7 seconds (by Joji Kato), so I would have to skate 38.17 before I’m allowed to represent Australia. Luckily, since there are very few long track skaters from Australia, I don’t have the additional complication of having to skate faster than another Australian, I just have a stopwatch to worry about.
So… I basically need to qualify for world cups, then qualify via a decent performance there for the Olympics.
Q: How can I contact you if I have any further enquiries?