The influx of young skaters is under pressure and no one less than figurehead Sven Kramer is going to work selflessly to change this. The four-time Olympic champion will secure his knowledge, experience and network in his own academy, with which he wants to introduce young and old to the sport he loves so much.
“It’s not that I’m worried, but I want to get involved now, so I won’t have to worry about it later”, says Kramer.
Natural ice cream
Kramer has been thinking about giving something back to skating for three years now. Something with which he can really make a difference. “Our sport is cultural heritage in the Netherlands,” says 34-year-old Fries. “For decades, natural ice has been an important source of inspiration for children to tie the irons under. That’s how I started as a little boy, but also toppers like Ireen Wüst and Kjeld Nuis. That was fantastic, you never forget those first blows on crackling natural ice”
But Kramer also sees – with pain in his heart – that the mild winters of recent years have meant that less and less can be skated on frozen ditches and lakes. As a result, children no longer come into direct contact with this sport and that has consequences. Kramer: “In addition, young people in our multicultural society are faced with many choices and obligations. Unfortunately, this is reflected in the membership numbers at clubs and something must be done about it. Action needs to be taken’
Daily management at Douwe de Vries
Just as he used to dream of becoming the greatest skater of all time, he also sets the bar high for his new project. “At the end of the day, we want every child in the Netherlands to experience the pleasure of skating before the age of twelve. But that is not the only reason. Did you know that almost half of the Dutch children don’t exercise enough? As a result, their motor skills deteriorate noticeably and the number of overweight people increases significantly. The call for children – and adults too – to exercise more is more present than ever“
The so-called Sven Kramer Academy will be a non-profit organisation, in which ex skater Douwe de Vries will take on the daily management. Meanwhile, Kramer himself is working towards the last Olympic Games of his career, where he wants to compete for his fifth Olympic gold medal in Beijing in 2022. In his free time he continues to shape his academy. “You understand that during the skating season I cannot be on location every day to assist Douwe, but I will certainly be there, helping where I can. With all love.“
Kramer and De Vries will start next month with lessons for young and old in Thialf. In addition, they are also throwing themselves into school skating, initially for children in Friesland. In the winter months they learn the principles of skating. “Instead of an hour of gym class, we take them to the ice rink“, says De Vries.
“There they will first be offered a package of three lessons to get acquainted with skating, in which fun is of course central. We hope that they enjoy it so much that they will stay attached to the academy and that some riders will be good enough to move on to the clubs from the age of eleven or twelve. And who knows where that will lead next?
Kramer invests in the project itself and is also financially supported by top investors such as Robert van der Wallen and Dirk-Jan Bakker. Even though Kramer will be the last one to put it up for sale. The skating king himself says: “The most important thing is that we do it with a good heart and want to get people moving in an accessible, affordable way. I have been having a lot of fun and great moments for years thanks to my sport. I give that to other people as well”