We are no longer surprised by a Van der Poel who excels in his sport. But if it turns out that Van der Poel is not called Mathieu and also turns out to be a Swede. At the Winter Olympics, Nils van der Poel fulfilled his favorite role in the 5 kilometers. Meet the new long-range ruler.

1. He is not related to Mathieu van der Poel

Skating has been dominated by the Dutch for years. Anyone who suddenly sees a Van der Poel popping up naturally thinks of a descendant of the family of Adrie and Mathieu van der Poel. But Nils van der Poel has nothing to do with that.

Van der Poel’s grandfather moved to Sweden and it is to him that Nils owes his un-Swedish surname (and perhaps his love for skating).

He picked up the only Dutch words that Van der Poel can say during a visit to the Efteling. “Paper here, thank you”, he repeats the words of Holle Bolle Gijs.

2. He didn’t skate for 2 years because of his military service

At the 2018 World Allround Championships, Nils van der Poel won the 10,000 meters. He seemed ready for the step to the top, but suddenly decided to put skating on hold for a while. He wanted to focus on his studies and also entered the army.

“It gives you a different perspective if you are away from the sport for a longer period of time. As an athlete you have to believe in what you are doing every day, but that makes you blind to your weaknesses,” says 24-year-old Van der Poel , who only made his comeback this season.

3. He’s more of a runner than a skater

That Van der Poel is an outsider, he also proves in his training methods. Literally, because the Swede puts on his running shoes more often than his skates. He even once participated in an ultra run of 117 kilometers.

“I walk every day,” he says. “In fact, I walk more than I skate. Why? Skating is an endurance sport, isn’t it? I think this approach works, my results prove that.”

I walk more than I skate. After all, skating is an endurance sport.

Nils van der Poel

4. Yet he is also a cyclist, hardened by the Swedish cold

Van der Poel likes a sporting challenge, the more extreme the better. On Instagram a few months ago he told the story of a visit to the bike park of Are with a friend. When it crashed heavily and broke some ribs – it would only become clear later – it wanted to descend one last time “not to let the fall win”.

A day later, Van der Poel took his bike for a solo trip of a tough 290 kilometers towards Sundsvall. A day later he had to return with his bicycle, but he ended up in a thunderstorm.

“The rain beat in my face, I shivered with cold and my hands started to stiffen. I dreamed of food and comfort and wanted to stop, but then I thought of my friend’s words and his last descent.”

“Finally I arrived in Are at 1 am. I couldn’t use my hands for a week.”

It characterizes the mental strength of Van der Poel, who undoubtedly also gave him that last push in his comeback to Olympic gold in the 5 kilometers.

5. He mocks the skating logic

Those who look at the world speed skating records will see that they have all been driven at great heights, usually in Calgary or Salt Lake City, ensuring that the conditions there are ideal for top times.

All, except one: at the 2021 World Cup, Van der Poel swept the world record in the 10 kilometers of the tables on the lowland track of Heerenveen. It was from Sven Kramer in 2007, then also the 10 kilometers, that that was still successful. Later, Van der Poel would also sharpen the world record in the 5 kilometers, now in Salt Lake City.

Van der Poel is also an atypical Swede, because his compatriots usually excel in skiing (biathlon, cross-country skiing and alpine skiing) or in ice hockey. The last Swedish Olympic champion in speed skating was Tomas Gustafson, who ruled long distances in the 1980s.

6. He answers doping questions with a smile

A skater who is first sub-top, then takes a sabbatical period of 2 years and then blows everyone off the ice, that naturally raises questions.

“I am surprised that it takes you so long to ask me questions about doping,” he surprised in his interviews after his world record. “I expected it much earlier.”

“It’s annoying when people think you’re cheating, but it’s also a compliment. There’s a certain admiration when people think you’re going faster than you can.”

“But I despise doping,” emphasizes Van der Poel. “We just have to have faith in the system.”

It’s annoying when people think you’re cheating, but it’s also a compliment.

Nils van der Poel

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