Olympic speed skating gold medalist switches sports

Carlijn Achtereekte
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Carlijn Achtereekte, the 2018 Olympic 3000m speed skating champion for the Netherlands, has switched sports to road cycling.

‘I’m done with skating, but I am not yet done with top sport,” the 32-year-old Achtereekte said, according to her new team, Jumbo-Visma, which was also her speed skating club the previous five years before her contract ended in April. “I’m ambitious, and I’m not going to ride just for the fun of it, but it’s something completely new.”

In a surprise, Achtereekte won the first speed skating gold medal of the PyeongChang Winter Games as part of a Dutch podium sweep. She had two prior individual World Cup podiums from more than three years earlier.

She made the 2022 Olympic team as the third and final Dutch skater in the 3000m at trials, then placed seventh in Beijing.

Other speed skating champions also doubled as cyclists.

Most notably, five-time 1980 Olympic gold medalist Eric Heiden took part in the 1986 Tour de France. Canadian Clara Hughes won Olympic medals in road cycling and speed skating. Czech Martina Sablikova, arguably the greatest female distance skater in history, finished 12th in the time trial at the 2015 World Road Cycling Championships.

“I have always had a passion for cycling. I sometimes thought: why don’t I do that? But skating went well and that’s what I focused on,” Achtereekte said, according to Jumbo-Visma. “Now I get the chance to develop into a professional cyclist and I am very grateful for that. I am eager and ambitious.

“It will be a matter of trial and error. As a skater, you ride in your own lane and you aren’t bothered by anyone. Now I have to learn to deal with the peloton’s nervousness and fight for my position. That will take some getting used to, but I assume that I will learn those skills quickly. I’m going to copy the art of my teammates and hope that I can play a role in the service of the team.”

The Netherlands has long been the strongest nation in women’s road cycling. Annemiek van Vleuten and the now-retired Anna van der Breggen combined to win five medals between the time trial and road race over the last two Olympics.

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