Gijs Verheijke

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When I was a kid in the early 90s, for a number of years the summers were dry and hot, and the winters were dry and cold. Every winter the creeks and lakes would freeze, and it would stay below freezing long enough to get at least a week of iceskating. I loved it. We went on the small lakes close to my house, the vast expense of ice, the cold, the feeling of almost floating. So when my parents said it was time to choose a sport to take up, I chose ice skating. Now, when we say that in Netherlands, we usually mean speedskating, on long skates called "Noren". I started going every Saturday afternoon from October until March at age 7 or 8.

I was athletic as a kid, very lean and very fast. I always took great pride in being the fastest runner of my class. With speedskating, I also practiced hard and wanted to be the fastest. It was the most important to be 'the best of my group'. At some point, around age 11 I had the opportunity to do a competition, which meant skating an officially timed 500 meter. I clocked a time under a minute, which is pretty good at that age. That got me a spot in the 'selection' of my skating club, and from age 12 onwards things got more serious. I started going twice per week, and did one training on land ("Dry Training") per week, also in the summer. There were a lot of faster, stronger kids older than me in the group. Training with them made me improve very quickly, and of course at that age your body is getting stronger very rapidly anyway.

Every time I did a competition, my time was faster, often by multiple seconds. I was the fastest skater of my age group in my club and that was very motivating. My time went down to under 50 seconds, and then to the mid-40s. I started skating other distances as well.

The beauty of speed skating is that it's a very technical sport. To go fast, there are a couple of important things to practice: