Dutch on thin ice

door Regina Coeli

Dutch sports are dominated by skating in winter. You can follow all the major competitions live on TV. And when a Dutch skater wins, loses miserably or makes a mistake, you’ll find everyone talking about it around the coffee machine at work the next day, so it helps to know a little about the Dutch culture and a few words related to skating.

From natural ice to ice rinks

You wouldn’t think so nowadays, but in the past, it was quite convenient to strap on a pair of skates when you wanted to go somewhere in winter. In summer, you had to navigate around the water, but during Dutch winters, you could easily cross it. The winters aren’t so harsh anymore, so the role of natural ice has been taken over by ice rinks, where there’s always good ice, regardless of the temperature.

Success and celebration go hand in hand

The Dutch dominate the world’s ice rinks. That’s because the sport is taken very seriously here, the conditions for athletes are good and loads of research gets conducted into techniques and training methods.

Wherever a match takes place in the world, you can count on Dutch fans being there, and they turn the stands into a party full of music and wear the craziest outfits, although this hasn’t been the case for a while because of COVID. So, when the situation permits, be sure to have Dutch friends or colleagues take you to an international skating competition in the Netherlands. It’s a feast for the eyes and ears!

Words about speed skating

Langebaanschaatsen   skating on a 400-metre track   speed skating
Noren   a type of skate with an extra-long blade   Norwegians
Klapschaats   a type of skate only attached to the blade at the front to enable greater speed   clap skates
Rondetijden   the time it takes skaters to complete ice rink laps   lap times

Words about skating on natural ice

Natuurijs   ice which forms naturally by freezing, e.g. on ditches and lakes   natural ice
Elfstedentocht   the most important natural-ice skating event in the Netherlands. The last one took place in 1997.    
Klunen   walking on land in skates in places where there’s no ice    
Koek en zopie   food and drink that you can buy at stalls next to the ice    
De schaatsen uit het vet halen   taking your skates out after not using them for a long time   literally: taking the skates out of the grease

Commentary on skating competitions

Sports journalists have their own jargon for covering skating races. Strange as they may be, the following phrases have been used for years. If you use them while watching a skating race with Dutch friends or family members, you’ll definitely make a good impression.

Hij is meteen goed vertrokken.    He got off to a good start.
Hij rijdt een vlak schema.    He’s taking each lap at about the same speed.
Even het handje erbij.   The skater is taking his hand off his back to speed up.
Hij gaat naar de bel toe.   The skater is entering the final lap. A bell sounds before the final lap.

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