Renje Retsma, the new Netherlands coach, immediately for Dutch figure skaters

Rintje Ritsma during the team hunt at the 2006 Games in Turin.  Image Getty

Rintje Ritsma during the team pursuit at the 2006 Turin Games.Getty Images

The key word for 52-year-old Ritsma when he took office was “commitment”. “I see it as a challenge to work together to achieve Olympic success, as it is important that you trust each other,” says Ritsma, who will start his new job next week. He is committed until the 2026 Games in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo. He quit his job as a ski analyst at NOS.

In recent years, under the leadership of the Coopmans, there has been a lack of trust and commitment. In the fragmented commercial Dutch skiing scene, it is difficult to match individual skiers and their coaches. This was not enough.

At the Winter Games in Beijing, where the KNSB ski federation emphasized team components, it became clear how little the Coopmans had succeeded in getting the teams to live up to their demands. The men took an annoying fourth place, and the women had to settle for bronze. In the collegiate start, there was gold thanks to Erin Schouten, although that was more due to her own class and the help of her assistant Marijke Gruenwood than the contribution of the national coach.

The pioneer of commercial ice skating

With Ritsma, a national coach with a completely different look steps on the ice. He is a four-time world champion, six-time European champion and has won six medals (two silver and four bronze) at five Winter Games. He is a pioneer in commercial skating and is considered an icon in long track speed skating. Remy de Witt, Technical Director at KNSB, expects a lot from him. Rintje has a wealth of knowledge about skating. He can make sure skaters and coaches put their shoulders on the wheel together.

According to De Wit, the skiers and their coaches are convinced that things can be done better than last winter in Beijing. For drivers and coaches, the individual path to Olympic success is critical. But if you also want to win the gold in team components, you have to work better and better together,” he says. The reins are tightened in this regard. Anyone who does not commit to joint training sessions does not have to rely on an Olympic ticket.

Despite all the best intentions, Ritsma knows how complicated it can be to win in a team quest. He himself was part of the Dutch team when the part was in the Olympic program for the first time in Turin in 2006. It looked like an excellent chance for Ritsma to finally win the coveted Olympic title in the fall of his career, but due to Sven Kramer’s fall in the semi-finals, the Dutch had no more options of bronze.

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