Sven Kramer with his Sochi gold of the 5,000 meters in record time continues the great tradition of Dutch speed skaters, as did Jan Blokhuijsen and Jorrit Bergsma of the Netherlands who took silver and bronze. A Dutch sweep, so to say.
Ever heard of Coen de Koning? Born in 1879, he developed into a phenomenal Dutch speed skater, who became all-round world champion in Groningen (northern province of The Netherlands) in 1905, winning all four distances, including the 5000 and 10,000 meters. He won the Eleven City Skating Tour (“Elfstedentocht”, a 128 mile or some 205 kilometers event!) twice, in 1912 and 1917. The first Olympic Winter Sports were held in 1924 in Chamonix in the French Alps (an area where I loved to go skiing) but by that time Coen must have been burned out.
Why I am glowing about this? My grandfather Hector van Coehoorn van Sminia, himself a good Friesian skater like his older brother Hobbe, trainde Coen de Koning in Davos (Switzerland) in the early 1900s in his training camp. Hector also participated in the first “Elfstedentocht” of 1909 and finished 8th out of a field of 32 skaters. He continued training Coen de Koning in Davos and spurred him to participate in the 1912 Elfstedentocht, which he won. And then he won it again in 1917, after practically a solo tour, leaving all other participants and close rivals way behind. The only speed skater who ever did this twice.
My grandmother was the first who congratulated him with his second win (her husband, Hector, was still on his way on the ice…). His feet were bleeding in his skating shoes. Hector finished, too (his brother, Hobbe, gave the starting shot!), though the records show it took him six hours longer than his “pupil”. But finishing it twice is quite an achievement and he was a couple of years older. A “monster race”, de Koning called it.
Coen de Koning – Hector van Sminia – Dutch speed skaters made history.
Coen de Koning also won the Dutch championships speed skating in 1903, 1905 and 1912, and his records on the 500 and 10000 meters held for 20 years!
Hector invented his own steel skates in the 1900s, lighter and sharp as knives, to increase his speed. They were sold in the early days of speed skating glory, before the steel blades from Norway took over the market. All-steel skating blades were also developed in the USA and Canada, where speed skating started as of 1850. Hector’s skates were screwed into leather boots with strong leather soles. Harald Hagen, a Norwegian skater had already built a skate in 1885, with a steel blade supported on steel tubes also fixed underneath a specially designed boot. This design became the standard for competitive speed skating for the twentieth century and up to today.
Hector used his skates in particular for the popular “bandy sport” (“hockey on ice”, rather than “ice-hockey”) and his team from Haarlem, where he lived, became champion in Davos in 1902, beating the Davos team 6-2.
As reported in the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Handelsblad of January 15th, 1902: “We saw excellent sprints by van Sminia, worthy of a speed skater, which belied the fact that he had not been on skates for a long time, due to his long stay in the East Indies”. Willy Dòlleman, the brother of Hector’s wife Marie, also played in that team. Hector’s Haarlem team played hockey in the Dutch national competition, and won the Dutch championship in 1904.
Much of these glorious facts are kept in the Sminia Archives in Leeuwarden, Friesland, in the Netherlands. It includes letters from Coen de Koning to and fro, but unfortunately the photos of those days are not very good. Some comments on Hector’s achievements were that this forgotten sportsman should be put back in the limelight, and that’s what I am doing with this blog.
The Sminia off-spring, and that includes me, lost the spirit for speed skating. You need fresh “Friesian blood” for that and a good deal of training discipline and physical strength. I was born in Amsterdam and never got very excited about speed skating because it tired me out so quickly. My grandfather taught me to skate when I was five, pushing a wooden kitchen chair over the ice, but I never gained his mastery. I remember him swaying over the ice with my grandmother at his arm, waltzing along.
But I love to watch the sport and attended many championships in Holland.
I deplore it that when we were kids we didn’t know all the things that our grandparents achieved and that we could not talk about it with them. Too much of an age gap to understand what it meant to be part of the skating champions of their time. Or of my grandfather’s horseback riding and breeding he excelled in after that, another great Friesian tradition.
So, congrats to Sven Kramer, Jan Blokhuijsen and Jorrit Bergsma, who continue the good old Dutch folklore!
OMAHA TV with a beaming Kathryn is on-screen with Mother Earth’s Weekly Squirms Show. The one and only Cable News that has a direct link with Mars Man in Mars City.
Kathryn: “We start today’s show of Mother Earth’s Weekly Squirms with a link to Mars City where Mars Man will tell us about his long absence. Mars, please go ahead.”
Mars Man: “Kathryn, I am so glad to be back with you. It’s been a hard time for me. After our last show in Omaha a year or so ago, on the way back to Mars, my Space Scooter One got riddled with debris from a broken Chinese satellite. They probably use Styrofoam to make their shuttles. I had to make an emergency landing on the Moon. It took a while before we got spares from Mars. I just got off before that Chinese rotor landed that is now also falling apart.”
Kathryn: “We know the world is changing, Mars. Some call the changes “progressive”. We are here with our usual panel, Charlene Knowitall, Henriette Forgetmenot, Marlene Femenazi, Paul Turnmeon, Fred Miserable, and Bob Demmofool. Our first question is how you feel about us after having been away for a year.”
Mars Man: “First, we on Mars don’t see much of you guys these days. There are too many clouds hiding Mother Earth, despite all your efforts to clean the air. What’s happening, are your regulations not working?”
Kathryn: “We have a government agency in the USA with twenty-five thousand employees pushing out paper to send thousands of regulations around the USA, and in the European Community in Brussels just the same, but to produce the paper, factories emanate so much smoke that we do not see the sun anymore. Charlene, can you elaborate on that?”
Charlene Knowitall: “Certainly Kathryn. Over the last twenty-some years, environmentalists have grown in great numbers because their salaries are subsidized by the Governments, that is the tax payers, and they are not audited by our Internal Revenue Service or in Brussels, where their salaries are tax free. This is done to allow them absolute freedom in scientific research and issuing regulations in support of government policies that don’t work.”
Mars Man: “But why would this cause rather than stop pollution?”
Charlene: “The policies have resulted in inverted outcomes, which are completely opposite to what they wanted. A 100% increase in bed bugs in New York hotels and other major cities in the world, including Brussels and Beijing, was reported that caused a 100% increase in CO2 to wash the sheets and steam-dry pillows, so much that the daily quantity of CO2, including the exhaling of CO2 by billions of human beings, rose above normal levels, causing formation of clouds the world over.”
Mars Man:”Other things we noticed is that people on Mother Earth are more and more divided. The Middle-East is repeating its religious wars that Europe was fighting in the middle ages, and uses poisonous gas like Hitler did during your Word War II. They continue their war on women, while you in the USA don’t raise a finger because you’re afraid of Islam. Instead, you are conducting your own war on women, but we don’t understand why.”
Kathryn: “That’s an interesting observation that Marlene can surely respond to.”
Marlene Femenazi: “Because the gay community finally won recognition and can now marry their own sex, politicians and newspapers had to turn their attention to another human species to sell their stuff and keep their staffs on the payroll. So they brought the women back to the fore. Even though women are entitled to vote in the USA since the nineteen twenties and in many countries after that, they still feel their gender is beleaguered. So they created the war on women. Males and females on Mother Earth war everyday in their households, depending on their libidos, but it’s more fun to do it in public so that everyone can see it on TV.”
Mars Man: “But what are they warring about?”
Paul Turnmeon: “May I chime in here? Male libidos. Women want to keep their headache rights and keep their pink sneakers on while doing it.”
Mars Man: “Uhh?”
Paul: “Well, the right to say “not over my dead body.”
Kathryn (hastily): “What other things have struck you, Mars ?”
Mars Man: “Politicians are lying more than ever and newspapers are giving them what they call Pinocchios, but nobody seems to care.”
Kathryn: “Bob, that’s for you.”
Bob Demmofool: “I’ve been lying all my life, actually since I went to Kindergarten, and it’s great fun. Politicians do so because they get a kick out of it, seeing how little difference it makes. One such politician wants to be President and Liar in Chief. Someone called her once a Compulsive Liar, so she has great credentials. Some people are better at it than others, but if you look around, the current American Administration is pretty good at it. So are the papers that support them. If you get four pinochios out of four, you are rated a champion and greatly admired.”
Mars Man: “But what about the voters, won’t they feel cheated?”
Bob: “Not at all. More than forty percent say that they would rather hear a lie than the truth so that they can keep dreaming. Of course, in some countries, if you say you want the truth you get hanged. In other countries, such as France, there is no difference between a lie and the truth. As long as it sounds romantic, it’s fine.”
Mars Man: “I see that many countries on Mother Earth are running out of taxpayer money. What to do?”
Kathryn: “Fred Miserable will answer that.”
Fred: “Once there is no more taxpayer money left, governments borrow from other governments that still have taxpayer money, until that dries up, too. Then the system collapses, and there is nothing left but barter trade, so many barrels of oil for so many metric tons of wheat, so many bottles of perfume for so many cakes of soap, so many bottles of liquor for so many bottles of water, and so on. Of course, if we run out of things to barter, we will run naked and be back at the stone age as before.”
Mars Man: “Do you think that will happen? We have lots of mars bars for sale, with our extra Mars deep-fried nutritional value.”
Fred: “Those bars may not be sold in New York City, where Brussels sprout, kale and turnips are the enforced intake, but they may do very well to get gold from the IMF in Washington D.C.”
Mars Man: “There seems to be a lot of friction about fracking in the USA. Other European countries also think that fracking is bad. Actually, we on Mars have been fracking all the time. Mars gets it water from underground through fracking. We use dust from the surface of Mars and pressurize it into the deep, and water wells up in our underground reservoirs. ”
Kathryn: “Interesting, Mars. Henriette Forgetmenot will take this last question.”
Henriette: “Our troubles are environmentalists that became environmentalists because they like to control other peoples’ lives. Same thing with the people who want us to eat Brussels sprouts and kale. Fracking means in fact filling the deep with dirt to release the natural resources, so, in fact, your replace what you take up with something else and do not create a vacuum. If they had done that with the drilling of gas in the Netherlands and Russia, they would not have created tremors from hollowing out the earth. Fracking is here to stay.”
Kathryn: “Well Mars, that’s all we have time for today. Great to have you back in our midst, and hope to see you back on Mother Earth sometime soon.”