The Olympic skating season started last weekend with an NK distances full of fast times.

Five conclusions after the tournament in Heerenveen, three months before the start of the Beijing Winter Games.

1. Dutch titles are nice, but this season there are only two tournaments.

Jorrit Bergsma gave himself one evening to enjoy his gold medals in the 5 and 10 kilometers with his wife and two children at home in Oldeboorn.

"But on Monday the switch will be turned again," said the 35-year-old Friesian.

"It's important to keep my head up, because the really important games come later in the season."

A Dutch title is never the biggest prize of a skating season and in an Olympic winter the value of a gold medal at the NK distances is even less.

"This is the first time I conquer the double", said Kai Verbij, the winner of the 500 and 1,000 meters.

"That's great, but it really starts to count in December."

At the end of December, Thialf may be the most exciting competition for Dutch skaters, because then the tickets for the Beijing Games (4-20 February 2020) will be distributed at the Olympic qualifying tournament (OKT).

All other races this season are completely devoted to those two tournaments.

"The Games are constantly running through my head," says Bergsma.

"That's why I shouldn't get too satisfied now."

See also: View all results of the Dutch National Championships here

2. Sven Kramer tries something new in his last Olympic season

The surprise was great on Saturday evening when Sven Kramer reported to the Twente Ice Rink.

The four-time Olympic champion, who drove his last marathon four years ago, chose the hundred laps in Enschede over the 25 laps of the 10 kilometers in Thialf at the NK distances on Sunday.

"We only decided on Saturday afternoon that Sven was going to run the marathon," said coach Jac Orie.

The 35-year-old Kramer finished disappointingly fifth on 'his' 5 kilometers on Friday, again a sign that a lot has to change if he is to become Olympic champion for the fourth time in a row at his favorite distance in three months.

"We have to get off the beaten track or you won't get anything else," Orie said.

"We hope that this training stimulus will take Sven a step in the right direction."

Sven Kramer only drove the 5 kilometers in Thialf.

Sven Kramer only drove the 5 kilometers in Thialf.

Photo: Pro Shots

3. Team Zaanlander is in remarkably early form, although coach Jillert Anema thinks the competition was playing hide and seek.

"Normally Jillert does not think the start of the season is super important and we get going a little less quickly," said Irene Schouten on Saturday after her impressive track record in the 3 kilometers.

"So this surprises me too."

After three days of skating in Heerenveen, Team Zaanlander could surprisingly call itself the most successful team with five titles: three for Schouten and two for Jorrit Bergsma.

"At the moment everything is just right," Bergsma said.

Anema immediately tempered the euphoria.

The 66-year-old coach thinks that not all rivals have shown their backs yet.

"I think a number of competitors already estimated before their race that they could not beat Irene and Jorrit this weekend and then thought: we will do a good training block and then we will take you at the OKT at the end of December," said de Fries.

"Some teams have been playing hide and seek, absolutely."

Irene Schouten (left) and Jorrit Bergsma together won five gold medals.

Irene Schouten (left) and Jorrit Bergsma together won five gold medals.

Photo: ANP

4. Jutta Leerdam is suddenly a medal candidate at three distances

Her coaches had believed for years that she could also belong to the world top in the 1,500 meters, but Leerdam did not want to take the gamble in her first few years with the seniors.

On Friday she was at the start of the skating mile in Heerenveen and she immediately made an impression.

After a very quick start, the 22-year-old sprinter set a personal best of 1.53.64, good for bronze behind specialists Antoinette de Jong and Ireen Wüst.

In the weekend Leerdam won both the 500 and 1,000 meters and so she can dream of three medals at the Beijing Games.

"I thought: it's an Olympic season, the 1,500 meters is a nice bonus to grab," says the world champion in the 1,000 meters of 2020. "I will continue to ride all three distances for the time being and then I'll see what comes out of it. Why not? If it can, then it can."

Jutta Leerdam was one of the stars of the NK distances.

Jutta Leerdam was one of the stars of the NK distances.

Photo: ANP

5. Patrick Roest doesn't win once, and that might be a good thing

He has always been the man of the preseason for the past three years, especially in the 5 kilometers.

At that distance, Roest won the Dutch title in 2018, 2019 and 2020 and also took eight World Cup victories.

Last Friday, the three-time world all-round champion finished second in the 5,000 meters, more than three seconds behind winner Bergsma.

There was also silver in the 10 kilometers, while he finished fourth in the 1,500 meters.

As a result, Roest did not win a title at the NK distances for the first time since the previous Olympic season.

That fits in with the plan that De Lekkerkerker made last summer together with his coach Orie.

He does not always have to be good this winter, so that he is in top form at the OKT and the Games.

"You would almost think that it is a good thing that this Dutch Championship did not go well," said Roest.

"But I don't look at it that way for a while. I still think it sucks if I don't win."

Skating season 2021/2022

  • November 12-14: World Cup 1 (Tomaszów Mazowiecki)

  • November 19-21: World Cup 2 (Stavanger)

  • December 3-5: World Cup 3 (Salt Lake City)

  • December 10-12: World Cup 4 (Calgary) 

  • December 26-30: Olympic qualifying tournament (Heerenveen)

  • January 7-9: European Championship distances (Heerenveen)

  • January 22-23: National Championships allround and sprint (Heerenveen)

  • February 4-20: Olympic Games (Beijing)

  • March 3-6: World Allround and Sprint Championships (Hamar)

  • March 12-13: World Cup Final (Heerenveen)

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