Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Dutchman flying in 'Toba

Transplanted coach has speed skaters in high gear

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He hails from Holland but provincial speed skating coach Remmelt Eldering was made for Manitoba.

At 6-foot-7 with the bushy Grizzly Adams-style beard, Eldering has taken the reigns and righted the Manitoba's provincial teams programs with his infectious personality and innovative training.

Clearly enjoying his new home, he has posted photos of himself on Twitter (@Remmelts) with ice hanging from his whiskers and an iPhone weather-screen shot of a minus-22 temperature in January.

"It is very mild in Holland, compared to what we've had here before this weekend but I love it here," said Eldering, 30, who moved to Winnipeg last fall with his wife Elske from Heerenveen, the world capital of speed skating. He has a four-year contract.

At the Canadian Age Class Championships at the Susan Auch Oval at the Cindy Klassen Recreation Complex over the weekend, Eldering's 26 provincial team athletes were competing among 150 from across Canada.

"I like working with the kids, I've gotten to know them and we're really getting somewhere. Kids everywhere are the same. Not only are they funny in Holland, they are funny here too. I put lots of energy in and they give me lots of energy in return," said Eldering, who skated professionally for five years in Holland, where the sport is second only to soccer in popularity.

After he placed seventh in the 2005 National Allround Championships, his knees began to trouble him so he left competition and began to coach.

"My goal is to get some consistency in their training and what they have to do (to keep getting better). It's a challenge for me and my wife on a professional, social and sport level," said Eldering. "They (the athletes) are so honest here and I can see them improve. That's the best thing."

Eldering was recommended for the Manitoba job by local masters speed skater Randy Plett, who met him at the 2010 World Masters Championships in Baselga, Italy where Eldering was coaching the Dutch skaters. When the Manitoba Speed Skating Association offered him the job, Eldering had just completed his university degree in communications and was working in a shoe store while coaching.

"I said 'what's the better opportunity,' and it was pretty clear. I wasn't happy every morning (at the shoe store," Eldering said, laughing. "I didn't realize it when I was skating myself, but skating became the love of my life. I love to be at the rink and around people who love to skate."

Carley Hopkins of Winnipeg said Eldering's training program helped her win a gold medal this weekend in the 13-year-old girls' 3,000-metres race.

"I wanted to do well because this is the biggest meet of the year. So winning a medal means a lot to me," Hopkins said. "A big part of it is that he has created much more difficult (training) programs and taught me a lot about technique."

Carter Chambers, 15, of Winnipeg said Eldering has taught the Manitoba skaters Dutch training exercises, using jumps to build leg strength, that have helped him gain more explosive starts. "I gave up hockey this year for speed skating, it's become a real passion for me," Chambers said. "He knows what it takes to compete at a high level, and that's what I would like to do."

Manitoba has a long and rich tradition in speed skating, producing both namesakes of the facility that was formerly Sargent Park, in Susan Auch and Cindy Klassen.

Other elite skaters from Manitoba include Sylvia Burka, Clara Hughes, Brittany Schussler, Shannon Rempel, Mike Ireland, Kyle Parrott, Stefan Waples, Tyler Derraugh and Heather McLean.

In Inzell, Germany, over the weekend at the Essent ISU World Cup No. 7, Derraugh placed 18th in the men's A division 1,500 metres with a time of 1:48.90.In the women's 3,000 B division, Klassen was sixth with a time of 4:11.94.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 11, 2013 C4

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