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Nils van der Poel sets retirement plan from speed skating

Nils van der Poel

Sweden’s Nils Van Der Poel gestures after winning the men’s 5,000m speed skating event during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Gangneung Oval in Gangneung on February 11, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

Nils van der Poel, who swept the Olympic 5000m and 10,000m speed skating titles, then gave one of his gold medals to the daughter of a Swedish citizen who was detained in China, said he will retire from elite racing after the final two major competitions this season, according to Swedish media.

Van der Poel, 25, reportedly told Swedish news agency TT that he will compete at this weekend’s world allround championships in Norway (broadcast schedule here) and the World Cup Finals in the Netherlands next week, then retire. He could still attend speed skating competitions in the future to see friends, while also skating recreationally.

Van der Poel teased retirement at the Olympics, reportedly saying it was his “conviction” to leave the sport after this season and that he closed a chapter at the Games. He also cautioned that he twice tried to quit in previous years, only to return.

The more recent break was after the 2018 Olympics, when he placed 14th in the 5000m, after which he went nearly three years without racing.

“When you’re a professional athlete in a sport that sucks as much as speed skating sucks, you’ve got to find a way to make it suck a little less,” van der Poel said at the Olympics. “I did 20 ultras, 1,000 skydives, I served in the army for a year, I do a lot of parties. I went snowboarding a lot. I went ski mountaineering. I biked the whole of Sweden. I made it adventurous, because I knew there was a time when I would lock myself up, enduring it. I had to build up a mountain of motivation.”

Van der Poel returned to international competition in December 2020. Two months into his comeback, he broke the 10,000m world record at the world championships, which he lowered again at the Olympics. He also broke the 5000m world record three months ago.

After his Olympic success, van der Poel published a 62-page journal outlining his training regimen, titled, “How to skate a 10K and also half a 10K.”

“This is the hardest flex I’ve ever seen in speedskating,” NBC Olympics analyst Joey Cheek tweeted.

This week’s world allround speed skating championships mark one of the most storied sports competitions, predating even the modern Olympics.

First held officially in 1893, it has been 49 years since a Swedish skater won the men’s allround, which adds results from the 500m, 1500m, 5000m and 10,000m over two days of racing. A Dutch skater won the last nine men’s titles.

The world allround was not held in 2021, so this is van der Poel’s first time competing in it since 2018, when he was fifth.

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