Thursday 30 March 2017

Medal haul of Dutch speed skating team a lesson to all small nations

Team Netherlands: (L-R) Jan Blokhuijsen, Sven Kramer, and Koen Verweij compete in the men's speed skating team pursuit gold-medal final during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics
Team Netherlands: (L-R) Jan Blokhuijsen, Sven Kramer, and Koen Verweij compete in the men's speed skating team pursuit gold-medal final during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics

Donny Mahoney

Now that the last curling stone has been cast in Sochi, it's perhaps worth looking at what small nations can take from the past two weeks of winter sport.

Holland's achievement in the rather unspectacular sport of speed skating deserves serious meditation for all sports funding bodies. Twenty-three of the 36 speed skating medals handed out during the Sochi games will be travelling back to the Netherlands this week. Surely no nation has dominated a sport so comprehensively.

I've read loads of theories about how the Dutch managed it: societal interest in long-distance skating due to an abundance of frozen water in the winter; pedigree and public interest in the sport, even the abundance of bicycles in the country, which apparently grooms future Olympians.

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