Sven Kramer’s winter started with a cycling accident and ended with health problems in the family. And despite a continuous struggle with his vulnerable back, he rode very hard in Salt Lake City at the World Cup distances.
He was only half a second away from the world title in the five kilometers. Kramer, now 34 years old, gave a signal to the skating world, but above all to himself: I can still do it.
At the moment it’s “actually quite okay…”, says Kramer about his chronic injury at a training camp in Inzell, Germany. “It’s never going to be perfect. It stays and it’s up to me and the team to deal with it as well as possible.”
The operation he was considering for a long time is not coming. “You’re trying to analyze what it might bring me and what the risks are. Of course I drove very good rides last season. If they’re only a few percent better, you win. You don’t want to take the risk of that dropping out.”
Already in 2005 Kramer was on the podium at the European Championship and World Cup allround. He’s not as dominant as he was, but Kramer is still there when it really matters. “What’s old, huh? If you reach a level where you compete for the prizes, why not?”
Don’t talk about the back
Top performances like the silver medal at the World Cup in Salt Lake City provide that confirmation. Though he doesn’t like the fact that he had to leave the gold to somebody else.
<"I've got to be honest, I hate that." The world title would make his vulnerable back a less prominent subject during interviews, it would again be mainly about his sporting successes. "I think so too," says Kramer, "but we're talking about a difference of four tenths. That's top sport, I know that, but then we would have talked about it or not."
Kramer is working towards the new season, although the question is what season it will be. The corona crisis will affect the winter skating season, but to what extent, is guessing.
“We’ve got a moment. It’s not November yet. And if you look at the past two or three months, a lot is possible again. I think we’re in good spirits.”
World Championships in China?
But Kramer can hardly imagine that the World Cup Distances will be held in Beijing in February 2021, a year before the Winter Olympics.
“Of course you like to go there, because you know the Olympics are there, but whether it’s smart is a second one. Not at the moment, but it can go fast. The most important thing is that the sport gets continuity and that we can keep skating. Wherever that is, it doesn’t matter right now.”
And then there is the reason why Kramer is in Inzell at all: the lack of summer ice in Heerenveen. It is too expensive for Thialf to open the doors now. Kramer, who seldom conceals his opinion, doesn’t get it.
“I think it’s amazing that we, as skating country number one, have to get out of here. Long-rink skating and shorttrack are very important for the Dutch sport. I think it is most unfortunate that everyone looks at each other and this is not picked up.”
“This is not only the NOC*NSF, but also the province, Thialf and the KNSB. I don’t really care who’s gonna pay for that receipt.”