Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014

Dutch speedskating coach said the U.S. won no medals because the country loves 'a foolish sport like American football'

By Amy Donaldson, Deseret News

Published: Fri, Feb. 21 11:20 a.m. MST

Dutch skating coach: Americans lost because they love football

 A Dutch speedskater trains at the Adler Arena Skating Center during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014.

SOCHI, Russia — The U.S. speedskaters shouldn’t blame their high-tech skinsuits, their high-altitude training camps or their high-performance program, according to the coach who won a record number of medals in the sport in Sochi.

They should blame the country's passion for football.

“It’s more about the system you have in your country,” said Dutch speedskating coach Jillert Anema in interviews with CNBC on Thursday. “You have a lot of attention for a foolish sport like American football. You waste a lot of athletic talent in a sport where it’s meant to kill each other, to injure each other and nobody in the world is competing with you at that field.”

His rant about what went wrong for the Americans came the day before the long track teams failed to win either of the quarterfinal races. The U.S. men lost to Canada, while the women lost to the Netherlands.

Anema has lead his team to a record 21 speedskating medals — with a few more on the line. No other country has ever won more medals in a single sport at a Winter Olympics.

Everyone is Sochi is wondering what the secret to Dutch success is, and he said it’s simple.

"We have found something that makes the suit very fast," Anema said. "It's the man in the suit."

He said U.S. doesn’t value its winter and Olympic sports the way it does sports that are almost exclusively American, like football. Because they don’t invest the kind of money in winter sports that they do in football, he asserts they will never be as successful as other countries like the Netherlands.

It is American arrogance that allows an expectation of medals without more serious financial support, he said.

“Come once every four years, you think with a few lone wolves who are skating, you can beat the world?” he said, obviously shocking, and at times amusing, those who were interviewing him. “There is no you can do it. America always believes they’re right, always believes that they’re the best. But that’s not true. … When you come to Olympic stadium and you want to fight the rest of the world, then you know your place. Stay in your country, do your own sport, don’t compete. … Don’t ask a question why you didn’t win medals.”

He said football doesn’t just consume America’s finances and attention, it “wastes” its best athletes. He did admit to enjoying the Seahawks' defeat of the Broncos in the Super Bowl.

“You put all money into that sport, not a lot of money into other sports,” he said, adding that the U.S won’t beat the Netherlands in four years — or eight years — with the system in place. “You’re so narrow-minded. You waste a lot of good talent.”

Twitter: adonsports

EMAIL: adonaldson@deseretnews.com

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1. Schnee
Salt Lake City, UT,
Feb. 21, 2014

"Because they don’t invest the kind of money in winter sports that they do in football, he asserts they will never be as successful as other countries like the Netherlands."

The Netherlands has 22 medals, only one in something that isn't speedskating. Talk about being a one-trick pony...

2. Chris B
Salt Lake City, UT,
Feb. 21, 2014

says a guy that has dedicated his life to skating around a sheet of ice

LOL!

3. 2020
Herriman, UT,
Feb. 21, 2014

Football, there is no greater game. Obviously football players are much more likely to get injured than speed skaters. However, they are even more likely to learn more of life's lessons (notice I did not say that you won't learn life lessons competing in speed skating. I said you will learn more in football), build more relationships, and certainly have a lot more fun! He can have his Olympic gold medals every four years, but I already don't remember his name.

4. utah dane
Herriman / USA, UT,
Feb. 21, 2014

I think the Dutch coach is absolutely correct. I know that if all of those 300+ pound football players turned their attention to ice skating that the USA would have won every gold medal in the sport.

5. OHBU
Columbus, OH,
Feb. 21, 2014

He's right that the US will probably never unseat them in speed skating. We also won't beat Korea and China in table tennis. But it does seem a bit foolish to say the U.S. can't compete at the Olympics because of how much passion we put into football, considering that the U.S. is always at or near the top of the medal count. It also seems silly given the fact that the Netherlands actually spends more time fussing over soccer than speed skating--a sport they will only very rarely, if ever, win a world cup or Olympic medal in.