Jutta Leerdam: The Flying Dutchwoman who skates "better under pressure”

The reigning speed skating world champion with over 800,000 followers on Instagram is a trendsetter on and off the ice. The 22-year-old is now being tipped to shine at the Winter Olympics.

5 min By Evelyn Watta
(Picture by Getty Images)

Jutta Leerdam is going places fast, both on and off the ice.

The Dutch speed skating star has won three world titles, including individual 1000m and two team sprint titles, is the reigning sprint European champion, and is one of the favourites to land gold at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, where she's taking part in two events.

These successes have helped the 22-year-old, who trains with men in order to gain a competitive advantage, land an astonishing 2.1m followers on Instagram - making her a winter sports superstar.

Leerdam is a multiple Dutch national champion and already owns her own skating team, which she set up with her Olympic gold-winning partner Koen Verweij.

The Netherlands has a proud speed skating tradition, and Leerdam will head to her first Olympics in Beijing looking to claim the 1000m title that was won by compatriot Jorien ter Mors at PyeongChang 2018. She's also due to compete in the 500m.

GettyImages-1288438525 (Getty Images)

Ice makes Leerdam's eyes sparkle

The flying Dutchwoman was talented at other sports growing up, but her absolute determination to win meant that team events were not the best fit.

"I played hockey for eight years. I enjoyed it, but I have never been a team player. I regularly had to sit on the reserve bench. The individual aspect of skating appeals to me,” Leerdam told Infrostada Sports.

The 's-Gravenzande native relished the team experience, but knew that skating was the vehicle that would unlock her athletic potential.

Most importantly, the sport put the spark back into her eyes, which the long track skater has learnt to accentuate with her characteristic black eye liner.

“That's my signature,” she says of her classic eye make-up.

Perhaps it’s the fiery look that has endeared millions of followers to her social media pages.

She takes fans behind-the-scenes on her platforms, showing them samples of her workouts, exciting snippets of her races, what she gets up to away from the ice, and her eye-catching fashion trends.

The marketing and commercial economics graduate is a self-declared diva who knows how to get the best out of herself.

"I like weight training in the gym. I like lifting and seeing the progression every week. My least favourite training is inline skating. It is not comparable to long track ice skating. I don't like it, but I still do it. Everything I dislike makes me better as well,” said Leerdam, who was named after a German windsurfer.

“I got the name because my dad used to surf. There was a girl who won a lot and her name is Jutta Muller. A lot of male surfers were impressed by her. She was blonde and my dad thought, 'If I have a blonde daughter, I will name her Jutta'."

2020: the breakout season

When the world was reeling from the Covid pandemic in 2020, the Dutchwoman was grateful that she could still be immersed in the sport that she began practicing when she was 11.

She grew up in the south of Holland, and like many young Dutch girls, Leerdam would skate on tracks around her hometown.

During the disrupted 2020/2021 calendar, the skater opened her season with her first international title, the European Distance Championships in January 2020, despite nursing an injury.

At the World Single Distances Championships in Salt Lake City, she helped her team retain the Team sprint title before locking in a surprise world title over 1000m.

At only 21 years of age she was was the revelation of the season, but still wasn't happy with her performances. She told a press conference back home that 'she hasn’t run yet' her best race.

Jutta Leerdam won 1000m gold at the 2020 ISU European Speed Skating Championships in Heerenveen, Netherlands.
Jutta Leerdam won 1000m gold at the 2020 ISU European Speed Skating Championships in Heerenveen, Netherlands. (2020 Getty Images)

Lofty ambitions for the Netherlands skater

The 2020-2021 sprint and 1000m Dutch champion is looking to the future with ambition and purpose.

After winning the world title, she made a huge career step in setting up Team Worldstream with her partner Koen Verweij, which guaranteed her another chance to work with Russian coach Kosta Poltavets and retired Dutch skater Rutger Tijssen, who joined the team as coaches.

She prefers to train in Inzell, Germany, instead of the popular skating stadium of Thialf in the Netherlands.

"I have trained with many women, but I have never seen them like Jutta before,” 31-year-old Verweij, the Olympic champion from Sochi in the Team pursuit told the Dutch site Sportsniews.

“She is already performing very well under pressure and won almost everything in recent years, but she can get much better. If she continues to develop in this way, then she will set a new standard in terms of times."

An upward trend towards Beijing 2022

Leerdam has already skated in the world's biggest events outside of the Games, and seems to relish the big stage.

“I skate better through that." - Leerdam on performing under pressure.

“I always put a lot of pressure on myself, because I know that I perform very well through pressure. I’m used to it," the two-time junior world champion told carryallsatisfaction.com.

"For me, pressure or tension is not negative.

“Of course, I’m going for gold. I’m well on my way. It’s going very well, and the upward trend is there. I can only look forward to the big Games.”

How to watch Jutta Leerdam in speed skating competition at Beijing 2022

She will compete in the women's 500m on Sunday 13th February, at 21:56 China Standard Time

Leerdam's second shot at a medal is in the 1000m, on Thursday 17th February at 16:30 CST.

Both races are at the National Speed Skating Oval.

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