Interview van de ISU

Hieronder lees je mijn interview met de International Skating Union. 

Pumping pop music is the order of the day for most Short Track Speed Skating events – but Itzhak de Laat isn’t listening in.

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Itzhak de Laat (NED) at the ISU European Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)

Instead, the Netherlands racer psyches himself up for competition by channeling the most extreme sounds possible. “I like death metal and black metal from the Norwegian scene, things like Satyricon and Dimmu Borgir,” says the 26-year-old with a laugh. “And then there’s Rammstein, Disturbed, Five Finger Death Punch. That’s my training music. I guess it’s an unusual taste but I like all the mythology associated with it, that kind of Viking stuff too.”

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Itzhak de Laat (NED) at the ISU European Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)

De Laat, quite clearly, isn’t your average athlete. Inspired by his heavy tastes (“Iron Maiden is almost going-to-sleep music for me”), he has also started designing helmets, for himself and others. “Both my parents are artists so I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” he says. “I’ve always been creative and it’s something I really enjoy and I get a lot of energy from it. It was a logical step to do something with the helmets because they’re really cool and there are so many possibilities.

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Helmet by Itzhak de Laat (NED) 

“I’m getting more serious with it each year. I’ve designed them for skiers and cyclists too, and I like the fact it’s not a 1D design. You have to work with the shape of each helmet to get it right. Each one is unique. I’m thinking about the possibilities for after I stop skating, but for now it’s something I’m good at. I’d like to design all kinds of things. Maybe I can be the next Bjorn Borg [the tennis legend now runs a sports clothing company]!”

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Skier wearing a helmet by Itzhak de Laat (NED) 

In the meantime, de Laat has been steadily improving, season by season, to become a key contender in ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating racing. Like many of his long track-obsessed compatriots, it took him a little while to get into the sport. “In the region where I live, Friesland, long track is the biggest sport and every kid there is taught to swim and how to skate,” he says. “I joined a long track club. But when I first saw Short Trackers while skating with my dad, doing some cool tricks, I thought, ‘What is this?’. It’s all I’ve done since. I love that Short Track has almost every element of what sports can offer: tactics, excitement, strength, speed, power. It’s never boring.”

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Itzhak de Laat (NED) at the ISU European Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)

De Laat, who has an ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships gold medal from the 5000m Relay in 2017, has also started to look like a true contender in the individual races. He bagged a silver in the 1500m at the 2020 ISU European Short Track Speed Skating Championships, and a bronze in the 2020 ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating 1000m race in Dordrecht too.

“I feel like recent seasons have been going really well,” he says. “I’m starting to scratch the podium and I want to continue that line. I want to be fighting for medals, especially with the Olympics coming up. It’s tough because the level is always very high, especially in the last few years. The Koreans always have different athletes but you know they are always really good. There are many great skaters out there who can win, but I’m one of them.”

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Helmet by Itzhak de Laat (NED) 

The Netherlands’ superb coaching programme, based in de Laat’s home town of Heerenveen, has certainly helped. “We have great facilities and, in Jeroen Otter, a great coach,” he says. “Jeroen has put his vision into Short Track to try and get the level of young skaters way higher than they used to be.

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Itzhak de Laat (NED) at the Short Track Tream Training 2020©Getty Images

“When I was young, I didn’t train nearly as much as those guys at 16 do now. There are some very good youngsters coming through so there is no time for me to sleep. When I was young, I thought I’d have to go to the USA to train but I know now we have one of the best teams in the world.”

It is, however, still a group in mourning, following the death of Lara van Ruijven over the summer. “It was tragic, what happened at our training camp in the Pyrenees with Lara,” says de Laat of the 27-year-old. “It has been such a strange time. It’s a scenario you feel that shouldn’t happen. When you’re in a team, you are used to people coming and going but it’s so strange thinking that Lara will not be coming back. There is real sadness and some of the team are finding it hard, accepting what happened.”

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Helmet by Itzhak de Laat (NED) 

It has put things like the coronavirus in perspective for de Laat. “It’s been such a weird year, with no World Championships, and we don’t know when we will start again. But we cannot complain. We have been training hard all summer, we went to the Alps cycling together, which was really tough, and we have been lucky to get back on the ice quite quickly after corona. We are lucky to have a really good team.”

Soundtracked by a wall of noise, de Laat may be the next member of this brilliant squad to make the jump from contender to champion.

Bron: ISU.org