It started with two surprising gold medals at the NK distances in November and was followed up at the qualifying tournament in December where she placed for her first European Allround and picked up tickets for the World Championships at 3,000 and 5,000 meters.
And now, after the first day of the European Championships allround in Heerenveen, Irene Schouten is in a surprising second place at only 0.79 seconds of title defender Antoinette de Jong. Sunday follows the conclusion of the all-round tournament with the 1,500 and 5,000 meters.
Massastart and marathons
The 28-year-old Schouten, who excelled mainly in the marathons and at the mass start in recent years, has so far an excellent skating season. Without marathons, but with gold races on the 3,000 and 5,000 meters in particular.
“ I notice that I don‘t know where my limit is yet,” said Schouten after the first EK-day in Heerenveen. “There is more in it and hopefully I can save it for the World Cup distances. Frankly, I don’t really look at the ranking of the European Championships.”
While Schouten is in an excellent second place in that ranking. “Allrounden is so different. I really wanted to watch this tournament by distance. Of course I know I can drive a good 5,000 meters, but can I do that after a 1,500 meters?”
Schouten, who was eighth in the 500 meters (39.86), rode the 3,000 meters the third time (3,57,95) ever in Thialf. She came close to De Jong‘s track record (3,57,32).
“ I didn’t believe it,” said Schouten about her time. “I really had to look a few times. Am I the woman in shape at this European Championship? I don‘t know. Honestly, on Friday, I was thinking, should I give up my spot? Do I have anything to do here? Allrounden is really something else.”
Defender De Jong was not frightened by the fast time of Schouten. “My track record is still standing. Unfortunately, at such an all-round tournament there is always a distance that runs less and for me that was the three kilometers”, said De Jong, who became third in 4.02,19.
“ It just didn’t run well, but it‘s nice to compete with Schouten. I have to drive a good 1,500 meters against her.”
“ That will be a great race”, the leader of the leader looks ahead. “And then it’s ramming on the five kilometers. Mentally I am strong and I do not give up quickly: this is a fun and exciting championship!”