Olympic coach hails from Quesnel

John Monroe trains Dutch medal hopefuls

Olympic Dutch short track speed skaing coach John Monroe grew up in Quesnel. Black Press photo

John Monroe trains Dutch medal hopefuls

Who knew the road from the Netherlands to Vancouver ran through McArthur Island?

It did for the Dutch short-track speed-skating team — one of three Olympic-bound skating

squads that made use of the big ice on the North Shore this month.

In addition to the Dutch, the short-track teams from China and Kazakhstan also trained on McArthur Island in preparation for the 2010 Winter Olympics, which continue in Vancouver until Feb. 28.

Netherlands head coach John Monroe said his team

made good use

of the Tournament Capital.

“I was here for the North American Championships in 2006, so I had seen the facility,” he said.

“And it’s a little bit further away from Vancouver than ideally you would want, but it’s also a little further away from the Olympic hype.”

Monroe grew up in Quesnel, but said that had nothing to do with the Dutch team ending up in Kamloops.

“It had a lot more to do with Hosting BC and with where there was space available,” he said.

“But it’s nice.”

Monroe, in his first Olympics as a coach, began speed skating after he moved to Vancouver from Quesnel and coached in the U.S. and Saskatchewan before landing the job in the Netherlands.

“Skating is really the national sport [in the Netherlands],” he said.

“And, in short track, we’re not at the top level, but we’re really, really close. We’re getting good results.”

The goals for 2010 are realistic for the Dutch, who took a total of seven skaters to the Games.

“Our goal for Vancouver is to get one medal and make three finals,” Monroe said before decamping for the Games.

“But it’s about building not just for one Games or the next Games.

“Our master plan for short track is for 2018.”

One of the best chances for the Dutch to medal in Vancouver is 20-year-old Sjinkie Knegt, who will be competing in the 1,500-, 1,000- and 500-metre events.

The short-track schedule at the Olympics began on Feb. 13 and conclude Feb. 26.

“I feel great,” he told KTW following a  90-minute training session on McArthur Island.

“We just try to do good training here and the whole team is working hard.”

Knegt, who will

be competing in his first Olympic Games, is cautiously optimistic.

“I think I can skate to semifinals or finals in all my distances,” he said.

“I want to make at least one finals.”

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