Avalon Aardoom: "I never give up" ~ Passion/Patin/Vitesse - Passion/Speed/Skating


29 juillet 2019

Avalon Aardoom: "I never give up"

“I never give up.” Four words that describe the 21-year-old Dutch athlete perfectly and not just on the ice but in life in general. 

By Carl Savard
Photos by Carl Savard, Oscar van den Bosch, Gijs Megens, Bert van Lobenstein

It seemed natural for Avalon Aardoom and I to meet at a café named Olympico last spring while she was visiting friends in Montreal. Like most athletes practicing a sport for which many people see the Olympics as the pinnacle, the Games are always in her mind although Aardoom confesses that she is more of a “in the moment” person than someone looking too far ahead. “For sure I think about the Olympics, it’s kind of the main goal but I’m more in the “Now”. Now I want to be this good. Now I want to reach that final. Now I want my technique to be better. That’s what’s getting me somewhere.”

Short track is a family affair for Avalon Aardoom. Her aunt Priscilla Ernst went to the Olympic games three times. She was in the first group of athletes who had the opportunity to show the world what short track was when it officially entered the Olympic realm at the 1992 games in Albertville. Her mom also skated and was later involved with a club as a coach. Aardoom remembers following her mother to the ice rink when she was only four years old. “Already as a little kid I would say ‘I want to do that! I want to be best!’ At the time I was too young for short track. When I was seven I tried dancing and really didn’t like it and finally at eight I was able to start short track and it was as good as I thought it would be. I liked it right away. I was always one of the smaller skaters and I wasn’t the strongest one but in my mind I wanted to do it and I kept telling myself I was going to make it eventually because that’s what I wanted to do and when I want something I go get it.”

Being twenty-one, Aardoom pretty much grew at the same time as the Dutch program. For a bit over a decade now, the Netherlands have been heading to the top of the short track world and it’s even more true since 2010 when Jeroen Otter has been named head coach. “Jeroen is tough but he is really clever and can be open minded. He makes you the perfect athlete. He makes you work hard for it. If you don’t want it enough or don’t want to put the work, don’t go to Jeroen. He appreciates the dedication but will tell you if you’re doing something stupid. I want it so much that I would sometimes skate on an injury. I recently had a concussion and after a tough training I realised it was too early to come back. Jeroen wasn’t happy. We had a discussion about the importance of knowing my body and listening to it. Sometimes, someone needs to step on the break for me, because I’m not good at that."

Joining the Dutch national team also means skating with the reigning overall world champion Suzanne Schulting and a strong group of female teammates including Yara van Kerkhof, Lara van Ruijven and Rianne de Vries. “When I started training with them I was really nervous because they are the skaters I look up to. I still feel a little bit like that sometimes but it’s really cool to skate with them and learn from them. It feels great when you’re able to follow them and contribute to the team.” 

Like her teammate Yara van Kerkhof, Avalon Aardoom has been an ambassador for Stichting Hartekind, a Dutch foundation that gathers money for research on congenital heart defects affecting kids’ life. Aardoom had heart surgery five years ago and is presently followed by a cardiologist for a heart condition. She is staying focus and hope things will settled soon so she’ll be able to go full speed again. “I may sound a little too spiritual but what I like the most about skating is that I feel free. When I’m on the ice and having fun skating, that’s all I care about. I feel at home. This is what I always wanted to do and I appreciate every day that I’m able to do it.” 

We often say sport prepares you for life. In the case of Avalon Aardoom, I’m not worried. She has what it takes to fight anything her sport or life will throw at her. You can’t beat someone who never gives up.

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