2024 European Skating Championships: Seven Belgians to start on Friday
The European Skating Championships will start on Friday in Heerenveen, the Netherlands. This is the first title fight of the season. Six other Belgians will join favourite Bart Swings in the Thialf arena.
Jason Suttels and Indra Médard will join the experienced Belgian team leader on the first day of the pursuit, an event in which Belgium has been absent for a decade. Swings will also participate in the 1,500 and 5,000m and the mass start.
Swings sees the 5,000m as his primary focus, especially after success in the mass start. This discipline, which he hasn't won this season, will close the tournament on Sunday, with Médard also participating.
The women's mass start will be contested by Sandrine Tas, who is in fifth place after four World Cup races. She is only behind Olympic champion Irene Schouten in the European rankings. She'll be joined in the 16-lap mini-marathon by debutant Fran Vanhoutte, who will also be competing in the short distances. Other Belgian competitors include sprinters Isabelle van Elst and Mathias Vosté.
This year, the focus will be on the long-distance championships. Next year, there will be a continental combined event. This change has led to less interest in the European Championships. The skaters are already looking forward to the World Cup races in Salt Lake City in three weeks, followed by the World Single Distance Championships in Calgary in six weeks.
Bart Swings in action at the World Cup in Tomaszow in December 2023 © PHOTO PRO SHOTS/SIPA USA