Winter Sports

Nicole Whyte on finding confidence through speed skating

For gal-dem, Nicole Whyte discussed her move to the Netherlands where she found speed skating and more self-confidence:

As I walked towards the outdoor long track, I felt no fear or anxiety at all, only amazement at the biggest rink I’d ever seen and impatience to get on the ice. I soon felt my adrenaline levels fall flat as I walked into the indoor seating area and saw about 75 white people of all ages, busily talking in Dutch. I felt immediately othered. This felt nothing like the Amsterdam I had been living in. 

Though there weren’t many black people at my university, there were many people of colour, which gave me a level of comfort. The city is bursting with tourists who communicate in English; many long-term ex-pats never learn Dutch because it’s so easy to get by without it. It seemed in that moment that I had stepped out of Amsterdam and into some remote Dutch village. It gave me the impression that speed skating is so intrinsically Dutch that the language, people, and customs central to the sport functioned as its proud gatekeepers, allowing little interference from others. I was merely a guest in their house.

I also learnt that, while ice skating originated in Scandinavia, the use of metal blades instead of bone is considered a Dutch invention and that speed skating was first featured in the 1924 Winter Olympics.

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