Who is Jorrit Bergsma?
Jorrit Bergsma is one of the Netherlands' top distance speed skaters, and is looking to defend his 10,000m Olympic title in PyeongChang.
Speed skating beginnings
Jorrit Bergsma was born on February 1, 1986 in the Adeboarn, Netherlands, a quiet canal town just outside Heerenveen, the city that's famous for being a hotbed of speed skating talent. He grew up on a houseboat, and first tried speed skating on natural ice.
In his early 20s, Bergsma struggled to break through to the top ranks of the Netherlands’ ultra-competitive speed skating scene. When it became apparent that he wouldn’t be selected for the Dutch Olympic team for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, Bergsma and several of his teammates considered competing for Kazakhstan in order to qualify for the Olympics. However, they decided against becoming Kazakh citizens when they realized they would then be forced to give up their Dutch citizenship.
Bergsma’s decision to keep representing his homeland paid off when he made his debut on the World Cup circuit the season after the Vancouver Winter Games.
Bergsma qualified for his first world championships in 2012, and immediately established himself as the Netherlands’ newest skating star in the long distances. He won a silver medal in the 10,000m, finishing behind Olympic medalist Bob de Jong, at the 2012 Worlds.
The two would share the podium again at the 2013 Worlds, but Bergsma was the gold medalist that year. Finishing behind him were Sven Kramer in second and de Jong in third. Bergsma also won a silver medal behind Kramer in the 5000m at the 2013 Worlds.
When Bergsma made his Olympic debut in 2014, he fulfilled his long-awaited dream of representing the Netherlands at the Winter Olympics. He helped his orange-clad team to a record haul of 23 total medals, two of which were Bergsma’s. And both times he stood on the podium, it was as part of a Dutch sweep.
In his first event, the 5000m, Bergsma came in third to earn bronze. The gold medalist was Kramer, who won with an Olympic record time.
But Bergsma came out on top when he faced off with Kramer again in the 10,000m. This time, Bergsma broke the Olympic record to become Olympic champion, while Kramer finished second and de Jong was third.
After sitting out the 2014 World Championships, Bergsma has collected medals at the last three world championships.
In 2015, he won his second world title in the 10,000m and another silver in the 5000m. Bergsma didn’t defend his 10,000m title at the 2016 Worlds, but he did finish second again in the 5000m.
He won three medals at the 2017 World Championships: silver medals in the 10,000m and 5000m, and a gold in the team pursuit with the Dutch men.
With a time of 12:44:45, Bergsma set an Olympic record in the 10,000m at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Bergsma specializes in the longest distances on the Olympic and world championships programs, with all but one of his world and Olympic medals earned in either the 5000m and 10,000m.
He also excels in even longer races: speed skating marathons, which are often held outside on canals or lakes. He raced 100km (62 miles) to become the Dutch national marathon champion in 2010 and 2012, and won a race called the Alternative Elfstedentocht that's 200km (124 miles) long in 2010.
His dream is to win the legendary Dutch race called the Elfstedentocht, or Eleven Cities. This 200km race takes place on frozen canals throughout Bergsma’s home province of Friesland, but can only be held during extremely cold weather when the ice is at least 6 inches thick. The Elfstedentocht has taken place just 15 times, with the last race held in 1997.
Marathon speed skating is not an Olympic event.
“There is nothing more beautiful in the world.” – Bergsma to The National on the Netherlands’ frozen canals and lakes
Off the ice
Jorrit Bergsma married U.S. Olympic speed skater Heather Bergsma (nee Richardson) in 2015. They started dating in 2011 when they crossed paths during that season’s World Cup competitions, and became engaged in 2013. After the Sochi Olympics, Heather moved to the Netherlands to live with Jorrit in his hometown of Aldeboarn. They now train together as members of a Dutch professional team sponsored by Clafis Engineering.
They have a Japanese Spitz dog named Yuki and enjoy cycling and sailing together.