Jenning de Boo goes from rough diamond to crown jewel in a flash

Jenning De Boo wins the 500 meters.Image ANP

A year or two. That’s how long Gerard van Velde expected it would take before Jenning de Boo would find his niche as a professional skater. But nine months after taking the young sprinter under his wing, De Boo has already won his first international title. Van Velde: ‘He is unique. I’ve never seen anything like it before.’

Shortly after his coach, 19-year-old De Boo himself leaves the central court of Thialf. He is an easy talker, has a kind of natural charm, but through it there is something serene. He also doesn’t seem to know exactly what is happening to him. The fact that he has now also become European champion in the 500 meters in the space of a week and a half, after his double national titles at 500 and 1,000 meters, does not really come to mind.

“Before this season I had not even taken the European Championship into account,” says the man who defeated the Estonian Marten Liiv (34.78) and the Pole Marek Kania (34.86) in 34.48 and who, to his own surprise, won the saw banners with his name on the packed stands in recent days. ‘I was hoping for a spot in the top 10 at the National Championships.’

The art of folding

Last year, De Boo, nicknamed ‘Jenning de Boeing’ by his friends, trained mainly as a short tracker, although he also competed in long track races. His times on clap skates were encouraging for a teenager, but Van Velde had no certainty that he would break through quickly. And he was honest about that in the conversations with De Boo. ‘I said: boy, you have some very nice pearls in your hands that you can go very fast with, but it has to be done.’

One of those ‘pearls’ is its long body. The Boo is 1.95 meters long and has long legs to match. ‘That’s good for top speed. You have nice levers in the 1,000 meters.’ The disadvantage is that a large body is a bit more difficult to maneuver through a bend. But De Boo also has a special talent in that respect, because he can fold himself like no other. ‘That’s why I thought: that boy could be something.’

But Van Velde did not expect it to happen so quickly, although the signs were already promising in the summer. At the first skating training camp in Inzell, South Germany, De Boo was able to keep up remarkably well with experienced men such as Kjeld Nuis. Then Van Velde saw how easily he picked up technical instructions, how smoothly he digested the transition from short track to long track.

The competition is keeping an eye on De Boo. Trying to figure out what makes the tall, strong youngster so fast. So when Van Velde is asked what instructions he needed to improve so much in recent months, the coach keeps his cards close to his chest. “I’m not saying that.”

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