The winter games beckon

Edition 26 January 2018, by John Mahnen

Congratulations sports fans! You have survived Blue Monday and if you have had just about enough of the winter doldrums, there is light at the end of the tunnel. That light is actually a flame, namely the Olympic Flame, which will burn again over the Winter Olympiad in South Korea. From 9 February, the snow and ice of Pyoenchang will once again beckon the world’s best to compete. By the time the flame is extinguished on 25 February, 102 gold medals will have been contested in 15 sports.

Naturally, the vast majority of eyeballs in Holland will be fixed to the ice of the Gangneung Oval where the speed skating completion will take place. The Dutch will look to replicate their success at the Adler Arena when the winter games were last held in Sochi, Russia from 7 to 23 February 2014. The Dutch team was the largest Dutch delegation ever at a Winter Olympics, with 41 competitors that participated in bobsleigh, short track speed skating, snowboarding, and speed skating. With a total of 24 medals, it turned out to be the most successful Winter Games ever for the Dutch team. The Dutch team won 23 medals in speed skating and one medal in short track speed skating. Olympic speed skating records were set on the men’s 5,000 metres by Sven Kramer, the men’s 10,000 metres by Jorrit Bergsma, the men’s team pursuit by Jan Blokhuijsen, Sven Kramer and Koen Verweij, the women’s 1,500 metres by Jorien ter Mors and the women’s team pursuit by Marrit Leenstra, Jorien ter Mors and Ireen Wüst. By sweeping the podium in speed skating at the men’s 500 m, 5,000 metres and 10,000 metres, and the women’s 1,500 m, the Netherlands became the first country in Winter Olympics history to achieve four podium sweeps at one edition of the Games.

Now in 2018, the final KLM tickets are being embossed with the names of the last members of TeamNL. The Olympic Qualification Tournament for skating, held between Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Hereveen produced the names of the speed skaters with a ticket to Korea.

The men’s team will consist of:
• Sven Kramer (5,000, 10,000 meters, mass start, team pursuit)
• Bob de Vries (5,000 meters)
• Kjeld Nuis (1,000 and 1,500 meters)
• Jorrit Bergsma (10,000 meters)
• Koen Verweij (1,000, 1,500 meters, mass start, team pursuit)
• Ronald Mulder (500 meters)
• Kai Verbij (500 and 1,000 meters)
• Jan Smeekens (500 meters)
• Patrick Roest (1,500 meters)
• Jan Blokhuijsen (5,000 meters, team pursuit)

• Antoinette de Jong (3,000 meters and team pursuit)
• Ireen Wüst (1,000, 1,500, 3,000 meters and team pursuit)
• Jorien ter Mors (500 and 1,000 meters)
• Lotte van Beek (1,500 meters)
• Marrit Leenstra (500, 1,000, 1,500 meter and team pursuit)
• Irene Schouten (mass start)
• Annouk van der Weijden (5,000 meters and mass start)
• Carlijn Achtereekte (3,000 meters)
• Esmee Visser (5,000 meters)
• Anice Das (500 meters)

The short track skating will take place at the Gangneung Ice Arena. TeamNL will be sending ten atheletes to compete, looking to have a breakout on the Olympic ice.

• Yara van Kerkhof (500, 1,000 meters, relay)
• Jorien ter Mors (1,500 meters, relay)
• Lara van Ruijven (500, 1.000 meters, relay)
• Suzanne Schulting (500, 1,000, 1.500 meters, relay)
• Rianne de Vries (relay)

• Daan Breeuwsma (500, 1,000 meters, relay)
• Dylan Hoogerwerf (500, relay)
• Sjinkie Knegt (500m, 1,000m, 1,500m, relay)
• Itzhak de Laat (1,000m, 1,500m, relay)
• Dennis Visser (relay)

In Sochi, Sjinkie Knegt won the bronze medal in the men’s 1000 meters, which was the first ever Olympic medal in short track speed skating for the Netherlands. In 2018 he is the oddson favorite.

Off the ice, there will be a few other Dutch athletes taking part in this year’s winter games. Cheryl Maas is expected to yet qualify for the slopestyle and big air snowboard competitions. Niek van der Velden will try to qualify for the men’s competions in the same elements that Cheryl Maas will contest. Michelle Dekker is one tantalizing place on the world ranking removed from making her way to a second straight Winter Olympics – a top-eight finish at a World Cup event would be enough.

The Russian doping scandal has produced unexpected good news for one Dutch Olympic hopeful. Kimberley Bos had all but given up hope on hurtling down the Olympic skeleton track. The disqualification of Russian Elena Nikitina opened up a place for Bos which was met with a confirmed booking from the Dutch Olympic officials in Papendal. Another athlete from the Netherlands will also be competing in the skeleton competition. However, Akwasi Frimpong will be competing in the men’s skeleton. Moreover, Frimpong will not be competing in the orange suit of TeamNL but the colors of his native Ghana!

Watching the Games

The brass of the Dutch state broadcaster NOS were aghast several years ago when Discovery Eurosport shocked the established TV order in Europe by securing the rights to the Olympics Games. 2018 marks the first Olympic event under the new license. At first, there was no certainty that the Games would be shown on “freeto- air” public broadcasters. Since their purchase however, Discovery Eurosport have sold a great number of sub-licenses to traditional broadcasters such as the NOS as well as the BBC, ZDF and ARD all of which can seen on most standard Dutch cable television packages. While Eurosport is generally also part of basic cable, its sister station Eurosport 2 is often not included. For true Olympic fans, the Eurosport Player platform will deliver the first fully-digital Games for Europe. It will be “the only place fans can watch every minute, every athlete and every sport.” A one-month subscription will set the fan back €6,99 and will feature more than 4,000 hours of coverage and 100 events will be available, including 900 hours of live action. Discover has also partnered with with Snap, which, during the Games, will deliver usergenerated and behind-the-scenes content from Pyeongchang 2018 to Snapchat users in Europe.

So fear not sports fans, the winter chill is set to give way to the heat of Olympic competition from Asia. Reason enough to warm up a bowl of pea soup and settle in to the Dutch skaters do their thing in search of golden dreams. Then again, there’s always ice hockey and figure skating!