Speed demon

Text: Mariliis Pinn Photos: Artur Waś, Henk Mannes, Unsplash Published: 17 / August / 2018

More than 50 years ago, Estonia was a champion speed skating country: in 1964, the speed skater Ants Antson won gold at the Winter Olympics in Innsbruck. That same winter, he also set the world record in 3,000m skating and was recognised as the world’s best speed skater. Now, a little over half a century later, Saskia Alusalu, from Adavere, is trying to skate her way to the top.

Saskia Alusalu uisutaja kes lendab rattaga Nordica FlyNordica Foto Artur Was
Saskia Alusalu uisutaja kes lendab rattaga Nordica FlyNordica MK Heerenveen Foto Henk Mannes

The 23-year-old, 38-time Estonian speed skating champion holds the records for all speed skating distances: 500m, 1,000m, 1,500m and 5,000m. She has improved on her various records 70 times. Alusalu has put Estonia back on the speed skating map – after a gap of 75 years, she represented Estonia in Norway at the European Championship, and in Holland, last year, at the World Championship, where she came tenth.

Her first skating experience was at the age of two, and her father took the whole family skating every winter, either to a lake or to the Adavere ice rink.

Her first trainer was the speed skating pro Väino Treiman. Her goal has always been to be the fastest, and she set her first Estonian record when she was just 14. Alusalu believes that, to be successful, a speed skater needs to be strong both physically and mentally, It’s a very technical sport and, in training and in competition, her main focus is always on technique. Alusalu’s distance of preference is 3,000m.

Alusalu previously trained at the Inzell speed skating academy in Germany and at Hamar in Norway, but has returned to training at Inzell, Europe’s best speed skating centre and only about 100km from Munich.

Where do you recommend travelling in winter?

Since I spend most of my time in Germany, I would like to travel home, to Estonia. But if you are planning a holiday abroad, I would recommend Munich. It is a very beautiful and interesting city with the Alps and its hiking, cycling and skiing opportunities right next to it. Hiking or cycling in the mountains gives you a very positive feeling and a whole different outlook on life.

Saskia Alusalu uisutaja kes lendab rattaga Nordica FlyNordica Foto Artur Was 2

What three things do you always take with you when travelling?

I always take my skates and my bicycle, packed into a separate suitcase. Most of my luggage is usually equipment. I often travel with two or three big bags.

I also always carry around my workout diary. I like to write my thoughts down. And, of course, my passport, wallet and phone.

Article was published in Nordica´s in-flight magazine Time Flies  (autumn-winter 2016).