Overtired Suzanne Schulting enjoyed her summer off: ‘But it was also difficult’ | To skate

While her colleagues will ride the National Short Track Championships next weekend, Suzanne Schulting will only step onto the ice for the second time on Monday afternoon. The multiple Olympic champion was forced to take a break this summer. She hopes to reap the benefits of this in the coming years.

Schulting gave a short update at the team presentation of the short trackers in Thialf on Monday. In May, she announced that she would start the upcoming season later. After seven intense years, it was time to fully recharge the battery, she explained. She was exhausted physically and mentally. She would therefore miss the first series of competitions of this skating winter and focus on the World Championships in Rotterdam next March.

The 2030 Olympic Games is a bright spot on the horizon

Suzanne Schulting

That choice turned out well, she said. “I feel really good,” said Schulting. “It was nice to take some distance and focus on recovering. Although it was also difficult. You think: oh, you can’t do anything. But I am not used to anything other than always training at the highest level and going from match to match and from training camp to training camp. I also enjoy just blindly following the coach’s schedule and going along with that pattern. If that is suddenly not possible and is not allowed, it is difficult. Now I had to listen to myself. Is it useful to start training now? I wasn’t allowed much, but I enjoyed what I was allowed. For example, I have learned that I really enjoy cycling around on my own, with a podcast on.”

What helped Schulting were the medical tests she had done after the previous season. They were clear: it was over for a while, the tank was empty. It felt like an alibi to indeed pull the plug, where this is naturally more difficult for her. “It was in black and white, which made the choice easier. Because you have no choice at all. I was just far from fit and had to take some time.”

Next week, Schulting, who will then be 26 years old, hopes to get the green light from the doctors to start training and work towards the season. The European Championships in Poland in January should be her first international competition. But only one thing matters: the World Cup in Rotterdam in March. “So I shouldn’t be shocked by the results in the first weeks. I still have six months, plenty of time, you might say. Today I’m going back on the ice for the second time. Quite exciting, but also wonderful.”

National coach Niels Kerstholt saw last week during the first minutes on the ice that ‘the lion is slowly waking up again’. “You see and feel the eagerness. We have to keep an eye on it, because it has to be done with policy.” He had no contact with Schulting for a month or two, at her request. This winter, a broad team will monitor how she is doing, physically, but also mentally. “But that time to the World Cup is long enough for Suzanne to be there. It’s not that she hasn’t done anything at all, after all these years of training she doesn’t have to start from scratch.”

Schulting also expressed her wish not to end her career until 2030. “I think it would be nice to participate in my last Olympic Games at the age of 32. That is a nice spot on the horizon.”

Knegt and national coach Kerstholt discuss problems

Sjinkie Knegt and national coach Niels Kerstholt have discussed their problems and can move on together. They announced this on Monday at the kick-off of the new season, with the world championships in March in Ahoy as the highlight. The 34-year-old Knegt was not satisfied with Kerstholt’s training approach. Skating association KNSB gave him an official warning in February when he lashed out at his former teammate during a press meeting.

“We have expressed things and made certain agreements. Things are going well between Niels and me,” said Knegt, who is not completely fit to start the season. He needs a few weeks to recover from back problems he suffered when driving a few concrete posts into the ground near his house.

Next season, Knegt will take on more of a mentor role in the relatively young short track selection. “I try to do that as much as possible, although it is primarily about my own performance of course,” said De Fries, who does not regret his statements. “Because I made those statements, things have changed. So it did help.”

Kerstholt, who succeeded Jeroen Otter after the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing, was quite difficult in the first season. The criticism expressed by Knegt and Suzanne Schulting affected him. “Yes, I have sometimes thought: do you really want to put up with all that ‘nonsense’? I also have a wife and three children at home. Ultimately, the balance turned in the right direction, because short track challenges me and I see the team continuing to develop. I evaluated with Sjinkie and we looked at where there was room for improvement.”

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