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Coffee connoisseur Kersten hopes for right blend at Games

China Daily | Updated: 2022-01-26 09:19
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Dutch-born speed skater Cornelius Kersten will compete for Britain at Beijing 2022. The 27-year-old and his girlfriend, Ellia Smeding, have launched their own coffee brand. AFP

British long-track speed skater Cornelius Kersten's "beautiful journey" to his first Olympic Games is inextricably linked to the unlikeliest of aids... coffee.

The 27-year-old-born in the speed skating-mad Netherlands, the most successful nation in the sport in Winter Games history-will turn out for Team GB in Beijing next month by virtue of his English-born mother Nadia.

Kersten and his speed skater girlfriend Ellia Smeding, who will also represent Britain in China, are coffee connoisseurs.

Having been unimpressed by the coffee offerings on their travels, in 2020 they decided to launch their own brand to fund their Olympic dream-and "Brew 22" was born.

For Kersten, aka "Corno", it has paid off.

The five different varieties-named after characteristics of athletes like "underdog" and "dream-catcher"-are appropriately packaged in the colors of the Olympic rings.

"One passion fuels another," Kersten said from his base in the Dutch city of Heerenveen.

For Kersten, who will compete in the 1,000m and 1,500m, coffee has been part of his pre-race ritual for years.

"Two hours before a race I would have a coffee as it is the last moment to relax and then the blinkers are on and I am in race mode," he said.

Kersten achieved a childhood dream in being selected, becoming the first long-track speed skater to represent Britain at an Olympics in 30 years. His girlfriend Smeding is the first female long-track speed skater to represent Team GB in 42 years.

The other dream Kersten hopes to achieve is seeing a 400-meter track built in the United Kingdom.

"I always had two goals. One is to reach my potential and help raise the profile of long track in the UK," he said.

"In the 1960s and 70s long track was very big indeed there and some of the rules in long track come from Britain.

"Even if I can only inspire just a few people to pick it up I would be very happy.

"To have a track built there would be a dream come true and just the boost the sport needs."

Kersten said his Dutch father Michiel-who inspired Cornelius and his younger twin brothers to take up the sport-agreed with his decision to represent Britain.

"Since I was a little kid I watched the Olympic Games, both summer and winter, and the Commonwealth Games.

"I always favored Team GB."

'Fire burns stronger'

Having narrowly failed to make the team for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, he was overjoyed to be picked and will be satisfied as long as he "leaves everything out there".

"Making it to the Games is a childhood dream come true," he said.

"I just missed out for Pyeongchang so it makes that fire burn even stronger."

Kersten has had to work hard to make it in a sport he describes as an unnatural fit for the human body.

"At the beginning it feels a bit odd, the movements are unnatural, the ice is very slippy and you feel like Bambi," he said.

"It's a beautiful sport and pleasurable to do. Sometimes it feels to me like sailing-when the wind hits you right you feel like a boat flowing over the water.

"Skating feels like that, pushing, gliding and picking up speed."

A fourth-place finish in the 1,000m at the European championships earlier this month in the Netherlands gave him the ideal boost ahead of the Games.

"I beat a few guys who beat me at the World Cup meets which is always a nice feeling as it means you are climbing the ladder a bit further," he said.

Flying at 40 kilometers an hour into a corner on ice may not be everyone's idea of pleasure, and the risk of injury is high. However, Kersten shrugs off the danger.

He broke his collarbone, lost a front tooth and was concussed in a crash in 2015.

"I suffered concussion for a year," he said.

"Now on the track I trust my body, I do not think about injuries anymore.

"Once the hood is up, the glasses are on and the gun goes I switch to guerilla mode."


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