It’s minus 3 degrees C. This lake is frozen solid. It’s time to skate. In Holland, speed skating ranks right up there with football and biking as the top sports to watch. But it’s rarely cold enough to race outside. Skater Arjan Mombarg has been waiting 11 years to skate the national championship as it was meant to be, on what the Dutch call “natuurijs.” It’s a very important race. When you win this race, maybe it’s one time in 12 years, a race like this. It’s 12 years ago, the last time. So … it’s great when you win this. Everybody wants to win this. It’s the classic battle of man vs. nature, says Dutch sportscaster Gio Lippens. This national championship is over 100 km, which is a lot. It takes two and a half hours to finish it. It’s outside. It’s in the wind. It’s in the rain. It’s in the snow. You never know what happens. It’s cold. So you have to have a really tough body to compete. And it’s tactics. That’s another thing that’s very important. Fans come for the good time, but there’s a hint of patriotism in their love of the sport. The Dutch are “defreezing” when it’s minus 5 degrees C. Then we start living. When it’s below zero, we start living. Holland has a lot of water. We used to have severe winters, and you get ice. And, I think, there was nothing else to do, people began skating. And in olden times, they used to have the long cow bones. They were skating on that. Well, they gradually became iron and so … it’s a long history. There’s no stadium, seats or heat, but the crowd loves it. There’s music. There’s barbecue. How in the world are you barbecuing when it’s freezing out? Nah, it doesn’t matter. When it’s sunny or freezing cold, it’s the same. For us, there’s no problem. There’s also a bit of nostalgia. This scene used to be more common. With Dutch winters getting warmer, scientists say these races will become more rare. Fans say they want to seize the moment. Maybe it takes 15 years or more when there is another championship. And with climate change, it’s perhaps the last time that we can see it. After more than two and a half hours, the fans get what they came to see. Sjord Huisman wins the race, and becomes a national hero. Who knows how long he’ll hold the title of natuurijs champion? If the warming trend holds true, it could be another 12 years.

Climate Change Threatens Dutch Skating Tradition
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