As if Ireen Wüst hasn’t already experienced everything imaginable, she starts to shine when she talks about her first workout on the ice. She has been at the international top for fifteen years, but in the summer, exchanging the asphalt for the ice rink is still reason for a big smile.
“I’m not that keen on skating. Being on the ice again is delicious,” says 34-year-old Wüst. “The first few laps it takes some getting used to, just for a moment, but it felt really good.”
Cheerful thanks to new stimuli
Wüst is, just like Sven Kramer with his teammates from Jumbo-Visma, at training camp in Inzell, at the foot of the German Alps. She is there as a skater of Team Reggeborgh. Her new team is full of riders and trainers with whom she has never worked before.
“It’s a whole new environment with all the people I’ve never been with before. But I have a lot of fun and I like to do new things. They are new stimuli that make me happy.”
In that environment Wüst is working towards the Olympic Games of 2022. There she wants to end her career. “The Games are a point. And an exclamation mark”, says the Brabanter, with five gold medals already the most successful Dutch Olympic player of all time. She won gold in Turin, Vancouver, Sochi (2x) and Pyeongchang. Beijing should be added to that list in two years time.
Wüst wants to focus on the 1,500 metres on her way to the Olympics, the distance at which she is reigning Olympic, European and World champion. The three kilometres she puts aside. The 1,500 metres is the main goal, supplemented by the 1,000 metres and the team pursuit.
With the specialization at Reggeborgh, a team that in recent years has been called a sprinter’s collective, she hopes to increase her chances of new Olympic success.
“I think I’m getting a little faster and I think that’s to my advantage on the 1,500 meters. In the training sessions there are more sprints, also in endurance rides. I cycle just as much, but it’s those details that make it.”
With Gerard van Velde’s team, Wüst was thinking of teaming up with Jutta Leerdam, the world champion in the 1,000 metres. Wüst assumed a partnership, but Leerdam could not agree on a new contract and left.
“That was unfortunate, but you’re going to have to change gear quickly and see what kind of environment you’re in. And that’s a very nice environment with girls that is also very useful to me.” Wüst refers to former world champion 500 metres Vanessa Herzog, Michelle de Jong and the young talent Femke Kok. “They can also ride very good paces.”
And then of course there is Kjeld Nuis. Because where Leerdam, and also Dai Dai Ntab and Kai Verbij left the team, Nuis joined them. “I think we’re all going to do it. You don’t need one person, but you need each other, and you can strengthen each other.”