Dutch Language Blog

Dutch Skaters and the 2018 Winter Olympics Posted by on Feb 21, 2018 in Uncategorized

The 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea have started and the Dutch have been on alert! The Netherlands sent 33 competitors to this year’s games and the results have been fabulous!

Photo taken by Jos Dielis found on Flickr.com with license CC BY 2.0

As of today, the Netherlands has won 13 medals including 7 gold, 6 silver, and 4 bronze. All of these medals have been in the sport that the Dutch dominate better than anyone: schaatsen!

Medals Won

While everyone’s victories have been celebrated, three important figures stand out! In the men’s division, Sven Kramer had an amazing performance, but he did not manage to make a comeback from the dreadful 2010 winter Olympics. Back in 2010, Kramer was set to win three gold medals, but he was disqualified in the 10,000-meter competition because he missed a lane change. His coach misinformed him during a turn and, although he had finished first, was disqualified. You can see more about this race in the following video.

Kramer finished 6th in this year’s race.

However, the Dutch still managed to make an appearance at this event. The gold went to Ted-Jan Bloemen, a Dutch-born skater who was representing Canada in the Olympic Games. Dutch defending champion Jorrit Bergsma won silver.

In the women’s division, Esmee Visser had an amazing debut by winning gold in the 5000 meter race. Although barely securing a spot for the Olympic Games in December and having no profcontract or professional contract like the other athletes, Esmee made it to the finish line first. If you want to know more about Esmee, I highly recommend this article by the Volkskrant and the following video.

Why are the Dutch so good?

Because the Dutch are so good at this sport, it is easy to wonder how and why. Katie Couric, a commentator for NBC during the Olympic Games, had by far one of the most entertaining answers to this enigma. According to Couric, the Dutch are so good at skating because, during the winter, the canals freeze and the Dutch have to skate for transportation.

For those of us who live here, it may seem that it is so cold even hell might freeze BUT the temperatures in the Netherlands do not consecutively dip that low to cause for the canals to freeze. Back in 2012, the Amsterdam canals did manage to freeze but it had been the first time in over a decade.

Photo taken by Arden found on Flickr.com with license CC BY-SA 2.0

Furthermore, even if the canals do freeze, the Dutch are more likely to stick to their usual mode of transport, de fiets, rather than skate. After much trolling and jokes, Couric apologized for her misinformed comment, and we can all laugh about this silly assumption.

While there is no inherent reason why the Dutch are so good at skating (perhaps it’s their long legs?!?), it is true that people are not only fond of ice skating, but there is also a lot of interest in this sport. Perhaps what we should be asking ourselves is why are we able to skate?

Why can we skate?

A few days ago an article in the Volkskrant brought light to something I didn’t know: there is no scientific reason as to why we can skate. While there are theories as to the friction of the skates with the ice, there is no definitive explanation.

Schaatsen, vertelt de hoogleraar quantumfysica annex enthousiaste amateurschaatser met een grijns (grin), is namelijk nog steeds een fundamenteel raadsel (puzzle). ‘Er is wel een standaardverklaring waarom we met ijzers over ijs kunnen glijden (to glide). Maar als je in de theorie duikt blijken er talloze (countless) vraagtekens te bestaan.

You can read more about the research into this in this article.

Are you a fan of the Dutch skating team?

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About the Author: Karoly Molina

Since I was a little girl, I was fascinated with languages and writing. I speak English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and a little bit of French. I am a writer, reader, language teacher, traveler, and a food lover! I now live in The Netherlands with my husband Riccardo, our cat Mona, and our dog Lisa, and the experience has been phenomenal. The Dutch culture is an exciting sometimes topsy-turvy world that I am happily exploring!


  1. Missy:

    The Dutch are not particularly good at figure skating, so the appeal of speed skating is not the ice factor (sorry Couric!).
    Speed skating requires little in flexibility (the Dutch body tends to be rather stiff), requires repetitive movement (the Dutch admire what can be logically mastered), and is not a team sport (the Netherlands soccer team explains how difficult team work can be for the Dutch personality).
    The pure practicality of this sport (it is not a game, and is all about being fastest and strongest) appeals to the Dutch mindset – one firmly rooted in common sense and determination. Of course, having a long stride certainly helps!

    • Karoly G Molina:

      @Missy Missy, that is a very sound conclusion! Thank you for sharing 🙂