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Dutch government called on to save skating hub

Leading Dutch skaters have urged the government to step in and save the Thialf ice arena in Heerenveen from closure.

The facility has a capacity of 12,500 and is the leading ice arena in the Netherlands, where speed skating is extremely popular. The Netherlands won 20 medals at the most recent winter Olympics in PyeongChang in 2018, with all of them coming in speed skating.

Thialf has fallen into financial trouble and requires €20m (£17m/$23m) over 10 years to secure its future. PyeongChang 2018 gold medallists Sven Kramer and Ireen Wust are among the skaters that have sent a letter calling on the government to step in and save the arena.

Douwe de Vries, chairman of the athletes’ association at the Dutch Skating Association (KNSB), told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf that time is running out to secure the arena’s future.

De Vries said: “If no action is taken, it is realistic that our top skaters will no longer be able to train in Thialf. It really is that urgent.”

The KNSB has previously stepped in to help the arena, as have local authorities and the Dutch Olympic Committee (NOC*NSF). However, support from the government is viewed as essential in ensuring that Thialf can operate in the long term.

De Vries added: “There is a good chance that we will have to move to another job (if the arena is not saved).

“And with all due respect: in terms of top sports facilities, nothing comes close to Thialf. Everything is well organised here; from climate systems to a great strength and training room. We also need that if we want to continue to achieve those medals.”

Image: Evelien1009/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size