Sportsman of a Different Kind

You must have been in a serious lockdown the past few days if you didn't come across some news related to the winter Olympics. Today I would like to give some attention to a very charismatic athlete that just won gold. An outsider shaking up things in the world of ice speedskating.

While there are no mountains, very few days with snow, and nowadays the canals almost never freeze, the Netherlands might not be known as a typical winter sports country. However, this small country is quite present at the winter Olympics.

image.png Source: Wikipedia

As you can see from the above table, all but one medal was obtained on the ice. And also this year, while writing this article the Netherlands is number three in the current Olympic medal charts. All of the medals for the Dutch nationals in this Olympics were obtained on ice. So far, that is.

From the mandy different forms of ice speedskating, one of the most popular races is the individual 10 kilometer. In the Netherlands, a well-known distance that often leads to gold medals. Not this time though...

In 2022 there is a new kid in town. Nils van der Poel, a Swedish racer is able to put pressure on the Dutch dominance. During this year's Olympics, he won gold in both the 5 and 10-kilometer races. He also holds the world record times for both these distances.

Apart from his skating skills, van der Poel is really a one-of-a-kind athlete. He turns his back to conventional training methods, challenges himself continuously on ice and beyond, and is successful in doing so.

image.png Image source: ANP

After gaining some credits in the ice-skating world, van der Poel announced to put an end to his skating career in 2019. After this point, he joined the Swedish army for a year of training in the harshest conditions. In addition to this, he joined ultra runs with distances of well over 100 kilometers. If that is not enough, he's an avid parachute jumper while not training for sports challenges.

In several interviews, he stated that in the past 1.5 years he trained 95% by himself, only being in contact with his trainer in digital form. The discipline and determination of van der Poel are truly jaw-dropping.

While van der Poel started to show up on the various speedskating events over the past years, as a Dutch person I was a bit concerned. Who was this weird Swede that was taking over the ice-skating world? And again, this Olympics, my Pavlov reaction was disappointment when a Swede took that medal and not a Dutchie. But now I know more about that Swede van der Poel, I can only be excited! He is an outsider that changes a forcefield for the better. He wakes up the comfortable players and forces them to reevaluate their strategy and push harder.

Challenge and competition push people to be creative and push to new limits. And van der Poel is not done yet. While you never know with this guy, he announced today that it is 80% sure about saying goodbye to ice speedskating. As he says, he is ready for a new challenge. While I don't know what it is, I'm very curious what kind of plans he is drafting up!

What have you done lately to challenge yourself, and others?

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