Bart Swings, World Top in skating, is up for two important years.
Interview in De Zondag 6 NovemberBeing Dutch? No!
In the coming week, the skating season starts with the first World Cup event in China. For our top athlete Bart Swings this winter must be a copy of the next Olympic winter: same training camps, same events, testing everything. The 25 year old Brabantian is very high ambitions. This season, a medal at the Worlds and next season an Olympic medal.
Then maybe the authority finally makes work of a skating rink
Bart Swings got known to a large public by February 2013 [it’s about the time Slow Rider told me about him, I think or a bit later]. Aged barely 22 back then he was already good for a bronze medal on the Allround Worlds (all rankings together, ed), in Hamar, Norway. It was surprising from a student as civil engineer who had set foot to a skating ring for the first time only three years before.
That medal has opened my eyes. I knew then that my great dream of a participation to the Olympics and contend for a medal there was possible.
Bart comes from inline skating. He claims that you use the same muscles for ice skating as for speed skating: most of all the upper legs and the thigh muscles but technically wise they are two different sports. When he made the switch to ice skating he mainly trained the technique. I didn’t wish to be an inline skater on the ring. Ice skating has to be nice. If your motion is not smooth you are losing time. Inline skating doesn’t need to be that perfect. Sometimes you may disappear a bit in the peloton. He was also surprised to see how fast he acquired that technique.
Inline skating has always been his sport. He only knew ice skating from TV. He dreamed to be World Champion inline skating and that prevailed in 2009. After that you need to extend your goals. You are dreaming of the Olympics, the ultimate achievement for every athlete but inline skating is no Olympic sport. If that was the case he would never have made the switch.
Koen Verweij was a major opponent of his in inline skating. He’s a year older but Bart beat him quite often. All of a sudden he saw him come up at the Dutch ice skating nats and he was straight in contention for wins. So Bart thought that he should also have given it a try. In February 2010 he trained for a fortnight or so in Heerenveen and that suited him really well. He felt like he made very fast progress.
Bart fears that in Belgium there are “no scouts” for skating [sorry for the literal translation, I guess it means they don’t give a damn, lol]. In other countries you can see that inline skating talent are picked but Belgium does not even have an official 400m skating rink, so where should you train? If you are a Belgian pro, you either need to go to the Netherlands or to Germany. He was lucky about the fact that his brother Maarten and two other guys also made the switch. Otherwise it would have been alone.
Bart knows that it’s being discussed at the Parliament of the “Flemish” region but that was already a few years ago. He fears that this will have no follow up and that Belgium does not have a skating culture like the Netherlands have. Maybe he should be Olympic champion first. Ice skating could nonetheless be a very popular sport in Belgium. If it freezes then the ditches are full of skaters.
Inline skating has now become a prep for the winter for him. He’s got 11 World titles in that sport. That’s why I pulled out of the worlds this year becomes it didn’t fit with his timetable but he does keep inline skating. He’s also glad that thanks to his performances in ice-skating that sport gets more attention.
Last Belgian to win an Olympic medal was Bart Veldkamp in Nagano 1998. What isn’t said in the interview is that he was a Dutchman who turned Belgian.
In Sochi 2014 Bart was 4th at the 5,000m and 5th at the 10,000m. That’s why he knows that 4 years later a medal should be the minimum (he was aged 23 in Sochi, I think). He’s got 4 chances: the 1,500m, the 5,000m, the 10,000m and the mass start. The latter is something new. He thinks he can make the most of his inline skating technique in that one.
This season the aim is a medal at the Worlds in February.
Beating Sven Kramer is not impossible even though he would rather do it next year (laughs). His main quality is that he can keep the same motive the whole race long. He handles that technique so well. He never has a lesser moment. You know in what time he will finish. That’s how he puts a lot of pressure on the opponents. I still need to handle it better.
In order to prepare for Sochi he did a crowdfunding. Bart Veldkamp said about that in Humo that he had become a Dutchman.
Bart says he may have followed the Dutch trajectory but he would not turn Dutch. Then he would have to race qualification races in order to take part in key events. As a Belgian he can comfortably prepare. This crowdfunding was really important though. Thanks to that the team Stressless could be founded, for whom he competed for three years.
Bart is now financially supported by BLOSO (which is the administrative dpt of the Flemish region to promote sport) and the Belgian Olympic committee. He always trained with his brother Maarten as much on the rink as in inline skating but last year he stopped his career.
The journalist says he sounds quiet. Bart says that he can celebrate after a win and be disappointed after a loss but that does not last long. I very quickly focus on the next objective. If he becomes Olympic or World Champion, you won’t see him cry. He tries to approach the sport as scientifically as possible. That might have something to do with his studies as a civil engineer, he says. “What I learn I take along. The field of aerodynamics for instance. He wants to know why an outfit is manufactured in a particular way. Even though until after the Olympics, those studies are on a lower burner.
As a child my idol was Sven Nys, as much on the field as off it.
Today I have great admiration for … Sven Nys (laughs). And Tom Boonen. A beautiful athlete. He’s there when he needs to and he can relativise.
His greatest sport moment was the 4th place at the Olympics in Sochi
His biggest disappointment was the season after the Olympics when he tried out new technique but never could find his turn.
Slow Rider, are you here?