…then I flew to the Nether Netherlands

So I moved to Holland to skate. I arrived on the 14th and am currently in a world of pain from all the training. Just to give you a bit of background, I used to be a regular at international competition for inline speed skating. I wasn’t bad at it and occasionally skated quite well, even managing to attend three world championships. Ice is subtly different, and it has been a pretty steep learning curve. Now, it’s not like I’ve never ice skated before or trained at a high level, it’s just that I never did so with the goal of reaching the Olympic Games (and for the first time in my life, I am without the burden of school work). That changes the dynamic of the whole thing.

A typical day begins at about 6:15 in the morning. I eat a small snack of some kind then throw all my skating stuff in my skating bag with my skates. Our team then packs into a car and drives to the local skating rink. We skate from 7-9am then we have breakfast. After this, we usually hang around and spend some time online (because the eatery where we eat is the only place where we have internet access at the moment). We eventually go back to our accommodation and will often return at about midday to do some work in the gym, either cardio or weights depending on the day of the week and where we are in our training program. Then we eat lunch. Afterwards we’ll retire to our accommodation and will occasionally return for a third session at night, but it is rarely anything that we would consider training.

The greatest thing about all of this is that we don’t pay a thing. All the rink time, gym time, breakfast, lunch, transportation, and so on are provided for. Soon we will be getting clothing and I will be getting new boots and blades. The only thing that I technically have to pay for is dinner, and I’ve only paid for it once so far. Our sponsors have even been kind enough to allow us free and unfettered access to all the facilities that are in the same complex as the rink, gym and eatery.

Why Holland? Ice skating is HUGE here. Let me put it in perspective – the biggest sport here, as it is in most European countries, is football (soccer). The second biggest sport is speed skating, and not by much. If TV stats are anything to go by, if you put any weight to gender balance, then it is actually more popular than football (mostly guys watch football, but everyone watches the schaatsen). It gets all over TV here as well. All the big international meets, regardless of where they are, are primarily sponsored by Dutch companies because the Dutch TV audience is reliably huge for these events. Our team is very good, don’t get me wrong, but we aren’t well-known in this world and are definitley one of the lesser-known teams. Yet, we have already been interviewed for a newspaper and been given a tour of our home city, Enschede.

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