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14 March 2020 | in FISU World University Championships

Three days of joy, the parting words and moments from 2020 WUC Speed Skating


Almost three years after Amsterdam won the bid, Monday evening March 9th, Maarten Poorter, chairman of the Eastern District of Amsterdam officially opened the 2020 FISU World University Speed Skating Championship during the opening ceremony. Sixteen countries had just entered the ice rink, proudly waving their countries’ flag as the organising committee president Ronald Ligtenberg and FISU technical committee chair Ivan Dyakov spoke with passionate speeches on the history of speed skating in Amsterdam.


127 years after the very first World Championship Speed Skating took place here, won by legend Jaap Eden, the ice rink bearing Jaap’s name hosted the 2020 WUC Speed Skating. This was the first official big international competition that ever took place here that with its age of 59 years, is the oldest artificial ice rink in the world that is still in use.

03  WUC Speedskating TP Ladies Winner

That the tournament took place on an open ice rink was clear during the week. Wind, rain and sun alternated like it only does in the Netherlands. Wind was the theme the week, some hated it, others not so much. But even people who were used to skating in conditions like this had a hard time here in Amsterdam:

"For all my life I skated outside, so I'm used to bad conditions and the cold, but this week was pretty hard considering we had like a 50km/h wind; so yeah, that was something" said Canadian competitor Antoine Roger.

02  FISU WUC Speeds Skating Winners 1500m 11032020

For the longer distances the athletes really had to skate tactically due to the wind, most skated as close to the boarding as possible to dodge the stiff headwinds and crosswindes. Coaches gave their athletes advice on how to do this best, however, the coach of the Chinese Taipei delegation was clear to his pupil how to go about it:

“Just skate, don’t think,” he said.


The long distance riders had the toughest couple of days, during both the 3/5km and the 5/10km during a drenching downpour that was mixed with an unrelenting wind. While this made for some of the most exhausting races ever for the competitors, it produced some heroic photos. The public saw that the courage and vigour of the skaters and rewarded their efforts with a steady stream of screaming and clapping.
wuc ss womenspodiumLadies 1000m gold medalist Sanneke de Neeling (centre) of the Netherlands shares the podium with silver medal performer Irina Kuznetsova (left) of Russia and bronze medalist Femke Beuling of the Netherlands
The Dutch team did well in front of their home fans, going home with a stunning collection of 16 medals, 7 of which were gold. Poland followed with six medals and one gold, and Russia with five medals, two gold.


The Dutch team was lead by none other than 2018 Olympic Champion 5000m and tournament ambassador: Esmee Visser. For the 24-year-old long distance specialist, this tournament was a welcome ending of a long season:

“I just really want to experience everything this week, not just race this competition very seriously with a lot of pressure,” Visser said. “At a World Cup or World Championships everybody is very focused on themselves and there’s a very tense ambiance that’s very different than here. That makes it really fun to be here this week.”

Esmee Visser Speed Skating

The ambassador’s words are exactly in line with what this tournament should be about according to the event organisers. The event’s slogan: Skate, Study, Socialize captures this. The tournament is about skating for sure, but it’s also about these talented athletes combining their study with high level sport, and about meeting new people with maybe the same interests, but very different stories.


The tournament ended abruptly, as due to the developments of the COVID-19 virus, on advice of the authorities, cancelling the last day of racess. Due to this decision, the Mixed Team Sprint and Mass Start for both Ladies as Men, did not take place. It also meant that the tournament did not have a festive closing ceremony, nor the big after party. However the socialize part of the slogan was proved again, as many skaters came together Thursday evening, to end the tournament together in celebratory university student style.

moment before the stormThe calm before the storm: women toeing the line before their night performance on Wednesday during the 2020 WUC Speed Skating

Event president Ronald Ligtenberg was clear Friday morning that no matter this decision it was a great tournament:

“I sincerely believe that the past three days brought us to the very essence of university sports,” Ligtenberg said. “What I will remember is the smiles on peoples’ faces, the smiles of athletes, volunteers, organizers and our audience. We added some great history to the 59 years of existence of the Jaap Eden Ice Rink. I am very proud of everyone that was part of the event and wish the very best of luck to the Organizing Committee of the 6th FISU World University Speed Skating Championship, that will take place in Lake Placid."

final bell