Ireen Wust, Olympic speed skating medals record holder, starts new career

Ireen Wust
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Ireen Wüst, the Olympic speed skating record holder with 13 medals including six golds, joined a Dutch athlete development organization as a mentor.

The 36-year-old Wüst, who retired in March, is reunited with coach Gerard Kemkers, who is the director of TalentNED, which so far has focused on speed skaters and cyclists.

Kemkers said a goal is to train the next Sven Karmer, Marianne Vos, Mathieu van der Poel or Wust, listing some of the Netherlands’ most successful athletes between the two sports, according to NOS.

Wüst joined TalentNED’s athlete roster when it launched in 2018.

At the Olympics last February, she took gold in the 1500m and bronze in the team pursuit, becoming the first athlete to win an individual gold medal at five Olympics.

Her 13 Winter Olympic medals are tied for second in history with Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjørndalen, trailing Norwegian cross-country skier Marit Bjørgen, who won 15 medals.

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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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Nao Kodaira, Japan’s first Olympic women’s speed skating champion, sets retirement

Nao Kodaira
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Nao Kodaira, the first Japanese woman to win an Olympic speed skating title, said she will race for the last time at her national championships in her hometown in October, according to Japanese media.

“When I thought about how long life is, I didn’t want it to be only about speed skating,” the 35-year-old Kodaira said Tuesday, according to multiple reported translations. “I felt that now was around the right time.

In 2018, Kodaira won Japan’s second-ever Olympic speed skating gold medal, taking the women’s 500m two decades after Hiroyasu Shimizu won the men’s 500m at the 1998 Nagano Games in Kodaira’s hometown.

She skated an Olympic record to beat home favorite and 2010 and 2014 gold medalist Lee Sang-Hwa of South Korea. After the race, Kodaira and Lee skated a lap together, raising their respective flags in one of the memorable moments of the PyeongChang Games.

Japanese women won two more golds in South Korea: in the team pursuit and mass start (Nana Takagi, who announced her retirement last week). Kodaira also took 1000m silver earlier in the 2018 Games.

This year, Kodaira was considered a medal favorite in the 500m, but was slowed by an ankle injury and finished 17th, 1.05 seconds behind American winner Erin Jackson.

“I always thought Beijing would probably be my last Olympics,” Kodaira said, according to Olympics.com. “I thought it wouldn’t be a bad time to take my life into the next phase. I started having conversations about this around the summer last year.”

Kodaira owns the Japanese female records of 34 individual World Cup victories, six individual world championships medals and two individual world titles.

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