KNSB suspends foreign skaters until the 2026 Winter Games

KNSB suspends foreign skaters until the 2026 Winter Games

Dutch world champion is no longer possible after 2026? Here is Fimk Cook this year on the 500 metres.Image Klaas Jan van der Weij / de Volkskrant

The KNSB Skating Association returns the controversial measure to disqualify foreigners from 2024 on the trade teams. Foreign skaters are still allowed until and including the 2026 Winter Games, after which the KNSB will review the policy again. The rule will continue to apply to short-track speed skating: starting next year, successful short-track skaters will not be welcomed into the national selection.

More than two months ago, head coach Remy de Witt announced that foreign skaters who belong to the top eight in the world or the top four in Europe will no longer be allowed to use the top sports facilities from next season. This advertisement was met with a lot of criticism. Consultations were held with all the parties involved in recent months, after which the decision was put on hold. De Wit states on the national website schaatsen.nl that KNSB’s position has not changed. “This certainly does not mean that the debate about non-Dutch drivers using our best sporting facilities is off the table.”

De Wit believes that these measures will increase the chances of the Dutch winning and fears the lack of senior Dutch skiers, especially for the period after 2026. This vision is in contrast to the vision of recent years. Since 2010, the national short track team has cemented itself with foreign skaters for years under the then national coach Jeroen Otter. He believed that training with the largest possible high-level group increased the chances of success. And that’s what happened. In past World Cups, the most successful short track nation in Seoul has been the Netherlands.

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This path has already been set.

“The short track is a different and separate way from this,” says a KNSB spokesperson. The Belgians Han and Steen Desmet, who have lived and trained in Heerenveen since 2018, decided after de Witt’s announcement not to wait until 2024 and contacted the Canadian and American federations, as they will join in the coming months. Stijn Desmet said earlier that they want to use this year to investigate whether they like it in North America and not rule out a return to the Netherlands if the federation returns to the proposed measures. But a return is out of the question, KNSB reports. This path has already been determined.

In long track skating, where there is no core team, but the best skaters compete on commercial teams, foreign top skaters have also been working for years. For example, Belgian Olympic champion Bart Swings is the captain of Team IKO, where the Dutch/Belgian title sponsor is active, and it was recently announced that American figure skating star Jordan Stolz has partnered with Team Albert Heijn Zaanlander. Both teams of skaters mention that Dutch skaters benefit from cooperation with their foreign competitors.

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