Irene Schuten became a three-time Olympic champion at the Beijing Winter Games. More than six months later, with a new ski winter looming, there is still a surprise. “I’m just thinking: Wow, how did you do that?”
At Team Zaanlander’s presentation in Zaandam, there’s no one who wouldn’t want anything from Erin Schuten. She handles the situation very comfortably, hovering over tables during conversations that, due to the busy schedule, should last no more than ten minutes. Yes, her life has changed, and at the same time she wants to return to the old.
The Netherlands certainly didn’t see her in a competition on TV every week. However, it definitely felt like a “crazy house”. “I’m still a little bit alive,” Scotten says. “I still get requests every day, but I said ‘no’ a lot. Look, I lived like a zombie for two years before the games. I hardly saw my friends nor my family. While that’s the funniest thing. After the games I said, ‘I want to devote a lot of time to it.'”
That has been moderately successful, Schouten says. “Not as much as I would have liked. I’m now at an age when my friends are having kids. But when the kids’ birthday falls, I can’t often be there. Then I either go back to boot camp, or I just come back and there’s a lot of things planned. Sometimes I feel a bit Guilt about it. I find it hard. I say every time: This will take a few more years. Because you can’t keep doing this your whole life.”
Ice skating icon in the Netherlands
But the next four years, because that’s how long Scotten signed with Gilert Anima and Arjan Samplonius. The 30-year-old has a winter’s dream on her retina, with Olympic gold in the 5,000m, 3,000m and team start, bronze in the team pursuit, and the all-round world title. In one winter, and every two weeks, it has become one of the symbols of skiing in the Netherlands.
She feels at home with the team. It could be the same, she says. She also got the freedom to exchange the team’s training camp to Livigno for a trip with her husband Dirkjan Mak and two snowboarders to Colombia. “I’m so glad I did. Otherwise it could have been my 8th time in Livigno and I’ve been sitting there reluctantly every year. I didn’t like it last year either, but then had to make way for the games. Now I wanted something different and understanding Gellert. Some go to a new shift to get a new incentive. I would like to stay, but then I have to see how we can add a new incentive. It was a really special trip and the biking and snowboarding are very nice there.”
There, too, in South America, Schuten saw something of her gold race in Beijing for the first time in September. “Then everything comes back a little bit. And the questions came. I quickly thought: I don’t know how it ended. I just think: Wow, how did you do that?”
big question mark
She didn’t forget the hard work, of course, but she handled the pressure as a favourite, three times…and then the overall world championship. “I have Miho Takagi sitting here. She’s a good skater, how do I beat her? I was in a flux these weeks and just went.”
I’ve lost that flow now. This winter is a question mark. “I think I can get to last year’s level, and I made a move. But in the year I haven’t gotten ahead on inline skates and bike, I’ve made my progress on the snow. I don’t know how I’m going to ride this winter. I’m probably tired of traveling in Calgary and I’m going to mentally mess around. Anyway. Anyway, I’ve discussed with Gilert and Arjan that I’ll just see what my goal will be during the season. The European all-around championship or the world mileage championship. And whether I’m going to drive over 1500m, or marathons. I won’t be at the top right away, but that’s not a problem. It’ll come time other”.
Contract until 2026
Erin Schouten will ski with Team Albert Heine Zanlander until the 2026 Olympics in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy. Under this name, coach Gilert Anima’s team will continue next winter. The 30-year-old Scott has been associated with the Anema skating team since 2015.
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