Nils van der Poel (26) recently attended a charity event. What if he could sign a T-shirt, and then immediately write his record under that signature? Yes, he’s a huge fan of skateboarding, the two-time Swedish Olympic skating champion says full of self-loathing. He had to call his phone to find his own time.
Now the man who has revolutionized the world of figure skating over the past two years sits in a basement, in an Asian dining room with buffet in the Swedish city of Örebro. In recent years, he has come here regularly after his seven-hour cycling training. His coach Johann Roegler – talking about his performances all the time – lives in this city, Sister Hanna too. He visits her regularly. His legs have weakened a bit in recent months, but other than that little has changed in his body. On the other hand, his life has changed even more.
He was asked to give lectures. On his way in Van der Poels, he encountered this challenge: intense, inquisitive, and laughed so hard, as if he had surprised himself with his unorthodox goal when asked about it. He decided that I would attend at least a hundred lectures a year. Not only in his homeland, but also in Norway, Germany and in the spring season in the Netherlands. He is now thirty years old in less than two months. Living without a goal is impossible for him. “The good thing is: There is an expiration date. I am committed to this now, and then I can relax again and find something else that makes sense.”
Patrick Roest expects you to get back on the ice. wants to fight.
“Oh yeah? Does he hope so? No, I don’t think I would, unfortunately.”
His hip was so badly injured that surgery is still pending. The wear and tear of intense training work. Inflammation caused damage to his muscle membranes. “You have to put some kind of net around that, to keep those muscles in place.” Standing during ski season was really painful. Now the sport is still impossible. “I miss getting up and going for a run. I found it hard when I stopped: not being able to train.” He is expected to make a full recovery after surgery.
Was the Olympics in danger at all?
Last year I had an MRI in October, in Ruhpolding, near Inzell, where we were at a training camp. “It will be five days of stress fracture if you keep exercising,” the doctor said.
“I continued training.” laughing out loud. If I had taken a break, it would have taken a month or a half. You can’t rest for a month in October if you want to win Olympic gold. During that period, my training volume also became less than it was in the summer and because of that I noticed that my thighs started to feel a little better. I was afraid, but at the same time I was not completely convinced that the doctor was right. So we didn’t really change anything other than getting rid of my schedule.”
“Just before Christmas, I went back to Inzel, did another scan and the same doctor looked at it. He said, ‘Yes, that looks the same and it doesn’t seem like much of a problem. I was wrong, you’re in luck. Since then, I thought: Well, Those games will succeed.”
Van der Poel has become the spirit of excitement for Dutch skiers, especially Roest. First with his age, then also with his amazing actions. Last fall, the Swede, the grandson of a Dutch grandfather, stood by the ice rink in Inzell holding a banner and a herding bell to cheer on his opponent. At the Winter Games in Beijing, the Dutch team was accused of corruption after reading an article on the KNSB Ski Association’s portal in which a Dutch sports scientist says he is trying to influence the ice. Three weeks ago, Van der Poel gave a lecture in Papendale entitled: How to beat the Dutch.
Laugh roaring over macaroni.
“That was funny, wasn’t it? I love that title.”
Sometimes it seems like you want to play with people. A little sting, like a cowbell.
“I want to make our sport interesting so people keep watching. There’s a retired Norwegian skater, Peter Northog. He’s been successful, very good in the media, often joking about the Swedes, and then it goes back and forth. He made skating fun. It was A role model for me, especially when I contacted the Dutch media.”
“By the way, when I give lectures in Sweden, it’s not about defeating the Dutch, or Patrick. They don’t care about that. But the only thing that makes me interesting in Holland is that I beat the Dutch. The phrase ‘how to beat the Dutch’ sounds very annoying, otherwise I’d like Listen to that too.”
“But while it became common for Northog and Swedish skaters to tease them back and forth, the Dutch didn’t do it to me. About the Beijing ice scandal, yes, but talking about each other didn’t become a big thing. I think it was good for the sport to have someone play with me. In the same way I played with them. Like that bell, I knew: It would soon be in the media: Is it Nils or Patrick? And I wanted to enjoy it. Laugh.”
But if you lose the World Cup title as the Swede’s favorite who then stands with a bell in your first match.
Van der Poel drops: “That’s funny, isn’t it?”
Do you wish someone would do this kind of thing for you?
Then you should come back.
“You can look at it that way, yeah.”
He’s been on a TV show for the past few months. He bought an apartment in Gothenburg, where he easily attends lectures. Without this commitment, he would have chosen northern Sweden, in the mountains. He loves peace, animals. From running in nature.
In previous years, he lived a more nomadic life, guided by his training schedule, while at the same time his schedule brought him to friends. There has been nothing to catch up with in the months that have passed since he stopped doing excellent sports. He also allowed himself a lot as an outstanding athlete. He knew: I would have to spend many hours of training unconventionally to become a champion, but in order to do so I had to tempt myself. With lunches at his favorite restaurant, with skiing and snowboarding, which many competitors do not dare for fear of injury. Drink all season. “A little less in the Olympic season, but I didn’t drink any alcohol at all.”
What has Olympic gold changed for you?
“When you win Olympic gold as a Swedish skater, Sweden opens up to you. If you were Dutch, it would have happened before. More jobs arose. And the following applies to me: you go from zero to many chances all of a sudden. That’s what winning games does: a ticket Free to anywhere you want. It gives new opportunities.”
Like a subtitled TV show: hero hero. With former top athletes in the obstacle courses. I watched when I was a kid, so I thought: This is fun. It was also nice to meet others, and learn from other worlds in which they operate at the highest level. But in the end I thought: Let’s never do this again. I’m tired of it becoming more and more personal. I do not want it.”
“By the way, the biggest comfort in quitting sports is that you can get sick without having to worry about it. But, then think again: Being sick is never fun, so you don’t enjoy it in the end either.”
In the Asian restaurant he is only asked if he wants more water. There is no acknowledgment, not even from the guy who joined the same establishment twenty times last year with cycling clothes. He is now known regularly as Van der Poel. Then be polite and try to end the conversation as quickly as possible.
These conversations are usually not very interesting. Because they are about me in such a way that I discover nothing new. They only tell me what I already know. I like to help people, for example to make them think. But when someone says to me, “Oh, you’re a good skater,” I think, yeah, I know that. I have the records.”
“Maybe it sounds cocky, but it’s like saying what color jacket you’re wearing today. It’s not an opinion, it’s a fact. As a skater, the crowd was standing up and clapping and cheering. That’s cool. So cold. When someone comes to you for the first time and says, ‘What did you do before?'” Six months has been really cool,” she says, “Oh, thanks for the appreciation.’ But when the 100th guy comes to you, you still say that. Exactly the same.”
His intention is to return to the army. Although Van der Poel also had a blow to the arm there, just as he didn’t say with complete certainty that he was going off skating. “I’m not sure, maybe I’ll find something that motivates me more.” Skiing misses. Especially close cooperation with coach Rogler. At the same time, it was no longer a reason to return. A day after his 10km Olympic title, he revealed his intense training schedule.
“To be successful, I had to improve the prevailing culture. It was hard for me to do what we did if we were Dutch. Then you have to stand up to the system. We had knowledge of the system, and we knew enough about the skate culture to improve it, but we didn’t go deep into it.” So much that it cannot be hindered.”
“If I could just sign up to drive those races, I’d go. But I know what it takes, what it takes. When it comes to results, I’ve achieved everything I wanted. The main reason I stopped was because there was so much I wanted to do. And I don’t think I’d ever finish. That’s in two years.”
How many times have people asked you about a comeback in the past few months?
“Nobody close to me has done that before.”
What does that say?
“I like the idea that they understand me, and why I skate. In a way that most fans might not. I think the people close to me don’t look happy, they look at me. My friends are proud that I did what I felt I should and now continue to do what I want to do now.”