Team NL has already secured four medals in the 2022 winter games: two golds in the 3000 and 1500 metres (Irene Schouten, who also set an Olympic record, and Ireen Wüst, who won her sixth gold medal on Monday), one silver in the 5000 metres (Patrick Roest) and one bronze in the 1500 metres (Antoinette de Jong, from Friesland).
Gracenote has predicted the Dutch athletes will win 5 gold medals this year, which is a somewhat pessimistic prediction: the Netherlands has won the most speed skating medals of any country at every Olympic Game since 1998.
The speed skating team is packed with Northern talent, with eleven athletes from Friesland and two from Groningen, including Suzanne Schulting, considered the best speed skater in the world at the moment by the sport’s connoisseurs.
The games will continue until February 20th, and in the long distance races, it will be possible to cheer northerners Femke Kok, Michelle de Jong, Antoinette de Jong, Marijke Groenewoud, Jorrit Bergsma and Sven Kramer.
This will be the last Olympic adventure for Kramer, who will retire later this year. He is one of the most successful Dutch athletes in history, with several world records under his belt and a total of nine Olympic medals won.
On the short track events, five Frisian athletes will be competing – Rianne de Vries, Itzhak de Laat, Sjinkie Knegt, Sven Roes and Jens van ‘t Wout – alongside with aforementioned Groningen star Suzanne Schulting and University of Groningen student Xandra Velzeboer.
There is another, less evident way the University of Groningen has contributed to the Dutch speed skating team. RUG econometrics professor Gerard Sierksma is the creator of the so-called “matrix”, a complicated series of calculations designed to choose the best competitors to bring to the Olympics.
Sierksma’s system has been used before for the Sochi and Vancouver games by KNSB (the Dutch ice-skating association). The system has proved to be somewhat controversial for athletes, since they are chosen not only on the basis of individual performance but also according to the chances of the Dutch team to collectively obtain medals, as reported by the New York Times.
It is possible to watch all Olympic events on NPO sport channels, see the schedule at the official games website.
Curious to learn more about why Friesland is such a hub for speed skating talent? Check out our story on the history of the Elfstedentocht, an epic ice skating rate held for the past century in Friesland!