She found driving in a swirling Thialf “really great” – pronounced with three soft Gs – and he almost got hurt in his ears. They were 18 years young, Sven Kramer and Ireen Wüst, when they debuted at the European Championships in 2005 and were loudly applauded.
With a second and a fourth place, they entered the international ice skating stop as juniors to still stand there sixteen years later. Next year they hope to place themselves for their fifth Olympic Games. But as simultaneously as their all-round careers began, they seem to end too.
This weekend the 34-year-olds are missing at the European Championships in Heerenveen. For the first time, both were unable to stand for the European title struggle. And in the next Olympic season, all-round tournaments are bynumbers.
Check out Wüst and Kramers honorary lists at the European Championships in the carousel:
As impressive as it would eventually get, so modest it started. “I dont think one should expect too much from us,” says Wüst in the run-up to the tournament in 2005.
But the youngsters more than live up to expectations. “A Kramer and Wüst-hype”, the Brabant himself describes the enthusiasm in Thialf. The fact that they are still short of the European title makes their actions no less memorable.
“ You always had good talents from the Netherlands”, Anni Friesinger now looks back. The German still successfully defends its European title in 2005. “But then we knew: there is now a very great talent coming.”
“ It was two kids from Jong Orange,” says Jochem Uytdehaage, who lost his Dutch title to Kramer at the end of December 2004, but still becomes European champion.
Uytdehaage: “For years I was the last to beat him at an all-round tournament. That says a lot about Kramer.”
On the sleigh down
Led by Peter Kolder, Wüst and Kramer are preparing for their first European Championships in Inzell in southern Germany.
The skating world is at their feet, although Wüst is so young that she has to show her passport if she wants to buy some fireworks in a supermarket. The thick suit of German snow invites you to play around, whizz down on a sledge and pepper each other with snow.
Watch here a report by Bert Maalderink from December 2004 with a very young Kramer and Wüst:
Friesinger and Uytdehaage wont receive their titles some time later. Especially Kramer is immediately a formidable challenger, no matter how inexperienced. At the NK, which Kramer wins a few weeks earlier and where Wüst becomes third, both youngsters only drive the longest distance for the first time.
“Driving for what I was worth.”
The ten kilometers of Kramer at the European Championship is only the second of his career, but he already forces Uytdehaage to the limit.
“ I really had to drive for what I was worth, in the end I had less than two tenths left. If I had made a mistake on the 500 meters, Kramer would not have had ten titles, but eleven.”
Kramer would later miss two editions of the European Championships in his career, due to an injury in 2011 and because it got in the way of his Olympic preparation in 2014. Wüst was always there since 2005.
After her third place in the 1,500 meters, that debut year, Wüst jumps a hole in the air in the dressing room on her own, she is so happy with it. Friesinger: “When you go from juniors to seniors, you sometimes have two good weekends, thats all. But at Wüst we knew: someone is coming who is going to win a lot.”
Friesinger grabs her fifth and last European title in 2005. “A new and fresh face came. Thats good too, it triggered me.”
“When I was 34, I became a mother.”
“ Coping with the pressure, keeping your focus for four distances, its so hard. Wüst is now 34, when I was your age, I quit and became a mother. But she still holds on.”
“ She will have to make more choices, but at the 1,500 meters she can still do it. And maybe even on the 1,000 meters”, says Friesinger.
With admiration, Uytdehaage speaks of both champions who skated for gold medals year in, year after year. “You cant imagine the impact that winning has on your personality. Even me, with my Olympic titles, I was also the best for a short time, cant really do that.”
“ Wüst was less dominant than Kramer, but so often the best. She has also been through a lot, sporty and private. The performance of both are really great.”
In the carousel, check out the programme of the European Championships all-round and sprint next weekend: