For months, she has been preparing for the upcoming season, which includes planning properly, training regularly, watching her nutrition, and getting enough rest to recover and make sure she can be at the starting line in top shape. Dutch, European, world, and Olympic Champion in short-track speed skating, Suzanne Schulting is ready to compete for gold. However, it remains to be seen whether this battle will take place in 2020. FIRST CEO and former Olympic speed skating champion Mark Tuitert, who knows better than anyone what kind of preparation is required for such achievements, asked her how she, as an elite athlete, is dealing with this.


Suzanne started skating at a young age. Her early focus was long-track skating. She actually got into short-track skating and eventually shifted her focus. In 2019, she won a whopping nine gold medals at various short-track distances, both team and solo, and she was well on her way to adding to this with nine gold medals this year as well. But then....

This is a tough year for elite athletes. In March, the short-track world championships were canceled due to the COVID-virus, and also the Olympics have been moved to 2021. How are you dealing with this as an elite athlete?

'I'm bummed, because I'm really skating so well. It's incredibly frustrating. I've never been as good as I am right now, very consistently, very often and very fast. Fortunately, things are going super chill at the moment and there is still progress, because if training went badly, it would be a hopeless situation for me. I really try to get my motivation from my workouts now and get off the ice every day feeling as good as possible. I'm not too hard on myself in that, but I do stay focused. So that the moment there is a competition, I am ready to perform.'


So, basically, you focus on the things you can control?


'Definitely, I try not to relax too much as I want to stay in my winter mode. I'm constantly thinking like 'suppose the European Championship in Poland will take place,' then I want to be 100% at the start. I will need that elite focus to ride well every practice.'

""It's not peak, peak, peak, but getting fit.""

Do you train according to your normal schedule now?


'No, together with my coach, Jeroen Otter, I made adjustments to the schedule. I still have the Invitations Cup this weekend and will ride the National Championship distances next weekend. Therefore, I am following the same schedule for the next two weeks that I also use when I would ride two World Cup weekends. So this week I am in full preparation for a race to be as fit as possible at the start. Also to create that race feeling so my body is ready for it. I'll not be unprepared. Should I suddenly need to race when I'm in the middle of a training block, I do not want to skate with a bad feeling. I am now in a phase of lightly peaking. It's not peak, peak, peak, but getting fit. Honestly, it's not quite there yet, but I hope to be by Thursday.'


I think you just skated really fast?


'True, and last week too, but it's more of a feeling issue now.'


But how did you come out of the summer? It was obviously an intense time with the loss of Lara. How are you dealing with it?

'I actually came out of it pretty well. Skating is my outlet. It's the thing where I can release my energy nicely and shift my focus for a while. When my training goes well, I feel good all day. So you boost yourself a lot. Of course, I have my occasional moments of breaking, but I have recovered well, and you don't see in the workouts. Besides that, I have my friends around me, my parents, my sisters close by, and Bas who is often there. I've had a lot of distraction and I've actually never had to grieve on the couch by myself either. I still miss Lara, of course. This may sound strange, but you do get used to that new situation and adapt to it.'


Is that athlete specific? 


'I guess so, it's kind of hard. It's not that you don't miss her, but you adjust to a new situation again.'



How do you look forward to the upcoming season?


""I continue to hope. This year is kind of done, of course. Yes, you can start focusing on long track, but that's not my main goal and not what I'm training for. It's more, nice to do it, but if there would have been short-track races, then of course I would not have competed. I just want to ride the World Short-Track Championships.'


So you want to skate the National Championship, European Championship, and World Short-Track Championships?


""Haha, yes. I just want to skate every championship. I especially hope for the European Championships.'


The World Cup would be in the Netherlands?


'No, the World Cup would not, the World Cup is just in the Netherlands. The European Championship would be in Poland. I really hope that it will start, then I can focus on that. These are important tournaments for me. In the end, that is the only thing that really counts. You see it now with cycling. Many smaller races are cancelled, but the World Cup is still being held. Really the most important races, that's what counts. For me, those are the European Championship and the World Cup, so I hope those will take place.'


It does seem frustrating when you feel good, but there are no matches.


'It's really quite frustrating! Jeroen and I are sometimes really like, yeah wtf!? But yeah, you can't change certain things. I'm now focusing on the second part of the season and I just have to not slack off now. I think a lot of people are like, ""Yeah, but you don't have a season now anyway"" or ""we didn't have a first part anyway."" I think that's exactly where you're going to lose it and now it's just a matter of keeping yourself on track.'


Now that we're talking about focus, when do you use FIRST?

'In the morning, I either take two coffees or a cup of coffee and a FIRST. After two cups of coffee, I don't take any more gum because then it's just too much. I actually always use FIRST before my strength training because it gives a nice boost, and sometimes when I don't feel like coffee for a while. When I go to races, I actually take FIRST the moment I'm on the bus and on my way to the track. So basically for my warm-up, to get a boost and really wake up.'


To get into race mode so to speak?


'Yeah, I think it's really chill. Only not for my 500 meters. Then I already have too much energy, If I'm going to take an additional gum, that's not going to be good haha.'


And now? Will we see you at the National Championship sprint long-track speed skating too?


""It might be. I have to discuss it with Jeroen. But there is nothing anyway, so I might as well skate.

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