Cornelius Kersten ends 30-year British wait for Olympic long-track speed-skater

·2-min read

Cornelius Kersten will become the first long-track speed-skater to represent Great Britain at the Winter Olympics for 30 years in Beijing next month.

The 27-year-old secured his place after a strong qualification season which included a ninth-place finish at a World Cup event in Norway in November.

The last long-track speed-skater to represent Team GB was Paisley’s Craig McNicoll, who competed over two distances at the Albertville Games in 1992.

Kersten said: “It feels like a childhood dream come true. I remember growing up watching the Games, and to be confirmed as part of the team was a weight falling off my shoulders, because I know it’s going to happen.

“It’s been a long and lonely journey, especially over the last two years with Covid limiting competition and training opportunities. But I’ve been quietly working towards my goal and this season in particular I have managed to establish myself.”

British speed-skating interest has focused almost exclusively on the short-track discipline, particularly the exploits of the now-retired Elise Christie, with no long-track facilities available in the UK.

But Kersten, who has a British mother, benefited from being born and brought up in the Netherlands, the dominant force in the long-track version of the sport, boasting a record 121 medals including 42 golds in its Olympic history.

Cornelius Kersten based himself in the Netherlands to pursue his Olympic dream (Vincent Riemersma)
Cornelius Kersten based himself in the Netherlands to pursue his Olympic dream (Vincent Riemersma)

Kersten, whose Dutch girlfriend Ellia Smeding is also hoping to qualify for Beijing, set up a coffee business to help fund his Olympic ambitions and earned the respect of his Dutch peers, not least with two top-20 finishes at the World Championships in Heerenveen last February.

He also became the first British speed-skater to sign with a Dutch team last June, when he joined Team Worldstream, created by Olympic champion Koen Verweij and fellow skater Jutta Leerdam to help and fund a selection of future prospects in the sport.

“I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve kind of been adopted by a Dutch team last season, and that’s helped me tremendously and given me consistency in training,” added Kersten, who will race in the 1,000m and 1,500m events.

“That’s part of the reason why I have been able to take such big steps this season.”

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