Due to a fall, psychology student and long-track skater Ariane Smit, 20, was unable to vie for a medal at the Universiade, the Winter Olympics for university students. Even so, the Rotterdam student enjoyed taking part in the Games in Almaty, Kazakhstan, saying that “it felt just like the real Olympics.”

Last Thursday, Smit got off to a very promising start on her 500-metre race. The 11.02-second time she logged after the opening 100 metres was the fastest opening ever recorded by a female student. However, the Rotterdam student fell in the last inside bend, meaning she didn’t cross the finish line until after 77 seconds. “We were experiencing tail wind on that particular stretch. As a result, I was skating faster than I’m used to,” she said. “Suddenly I was lying on the ice. Thankfully, I was not in a great deal of pain. It was very sad, though, because during the second 500-metre race, there was a strong head wind, which allowed us to skate a little less fast. On that occasion I did manage to log a time of 41.15 seconds, just three tenths of a second above my PR. It was a great race.”

In the end, Smit was not too unhappy about the fall, which caused her to be last in the 500-metre rankings. “It would have been hard to vie for a medal, anyway, since the Asian and Russian skaters were skating far too well. They had been training for this competition for about four years.”

'Once in a lifetime'

Smit was satisfied with coming 19th (out of 33) on her lesser distance, the 1,000-metre race, in 1 minute and 23.97 seconds. The weather conditions did bother her, though. “It was snowing and it was minus fourteen degrees. Furthermore, the wind was unfavourable, and the rink was at 1,700 metres altitude. After my race I had a headache because of the cold. I felt sick and was constantly coughing. What an experience.”

Smit describes her experiences as “once in a lifetime”. “It was super cool, because everything was being arranged for us. When we emerged from our plane, the volunteers started applauding. They also carried our suitcases, held all the doors for us and escorted us to the city. We were taken to the athletes’ village in mini-vans, with a police escort. At the village, every country had its own block of flats, and there were a supermarket, swimming pool and hair salon, as well.”

Ariane Smit 4, Almaty, schaatsen, Universiade
De spectaculaire openingsceremonie Image credit: https://almaty2017.com


The opening ceremony particularly impressed Smit. “It took place in an absolutely huge stadium, which was filled to the rafters. The President of Kazakhstan spoke, the audience was wild and we represented the Netherlands on the stage. It felt just like the real Olympics.”

On Wednesday morning the psychology student boarded the plane back to Holland with a few other Team Holland representatives, thus missing out on the closing ceremony. “I have to sit an exam on Friday,” she explained.