During the 20/21 and 21/22 speedskating seasons, Swedish speedskater Nils van de Poel seemingly “came out of nowhere” to dominate the 5,000m and 10,000m events. His success culminated at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, where he won gold in both events, setting the Olympic record in the former distance and the world record in the latter.
It’s not fair to say his performance came out of nowhere. Like most Cinderella stories in sports, the true path to ultimate success was much longer and far windier than it looked to the outside world. And unlike most athletes, van der Poel published his training program in the year leading up to the Olympics, providing insight into what it took to become an Olympic champion.
In this interview, sports scientist Dr. Stephen Seiler talks with both van der Poel and his 3-time Olympian coach Johan Röjler about wanting to be a great athlete from the age of 8, the costs of that ambition, and how coach and athlete carved out a demanding but sustainable balance in both training and life to rewrite the record books in these distances and reinvigorate the conversation about endurance training best practices.
Reposted on Fast Talk Laboratories with permission of Dr. Stephen Seiler.