Ter Mors speeds into Olympic history
Short track specialist Jorien ter Mors tried her hand at long track at Sochi 2014 to great effect, picking up gold medals in the 1,500m and the team pursuit. A multiple European and World Championship medallist, the Dutch skater continued to switch between the two disciplines and made history at PyeongChang 2018, landing 1,000m long track gold and 3,000m short track relay bronze. In the process, she became the first woman to win medals in two different disciplines at the same Olympic Winter Games.
Initial skating success
Jorien ter Mors made her Olympic debut aged 20 in the short track events at Vancouver 2010, where she finished 23rd overall in the women’s 500m and helped the Netherlands claim fourth place in the 3,000m relay.
At the 2012 European Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Mlada Boleslav (CZE), she landed the 1,000m crown, and won two silver medals in the 1,500m and 3,000m. Two years later in Dresden (GER), she added victories in the 1,500m, 3,000m and 3,000m relay – becoming the first Dutchwoman to claim European titles in every short track distance – and also finished second in the 1,000m.
In total, the Enschede-born skater amassed a total of 19 European individual and team medals (eight gold, six silver and five bronze) and three ICU World Championship medals (two silver and one bronze) in short track between 2010 and 2014.
Experimenting with long track to improve her fitness in 2012, Ter Mors soon became aware of her huge potential in the timed discipline, and enjoyed success in several ICU World Cup gatherings, notably in the 1,500m, setting a new track record of 1:54.88 seconds at the World Cup event at Berlin’s Sportforum Hohenschönhausen (GER) in December 2013.
“I know that I skated fast and tried to have an even race, which resulted in a nice time,” she said after that success. “I’ve been focusing on my technique as I know I can do better. I enjoy what I do, in both long track and short track.”
Short track disappointments
Determined to prove her versatility, in 2014 Ter Mors made history by becoming the first female athlete to enter both the short track and long track speed skating competitions at an Olympic Winter Games.
Her short track results in Sochi were solid but unspectacular, as she finished sixth in the 500m and fourth in the 1,500m. In the women’s 3,000m relay, the Dutch quartet featuring Ter Mors was disqualified in the semi-finals.
At the Adler Arena Skating Centre on 16 February 2014, Ter Mors completed an astonishing conversion by capturing a gold medal in the 1,500m long track final, setting a new Olympic record of 1:53.51 in finishing ahead of three of her compatriots: Ireen Wüst (silver), Lotte van Beek (bronze) and Marrit Leenstra (fourth).
“I'm not used to these kinds of situations,” she admitted. “In short track you immediately know if you have won,” she said. “It was very nerve-wracking. I never expected to win gold here, but I had a very good race. Technically it was good. I kept pace and skated in a compact position; it was just about keeping it going. At the finish line I looked up and saw I was first.”
A few days later, Ter Mors, Van Beek, Leenstra and Wüst joined forces to secure gold for the Netherlands in the women’s team pursuit, defeating Poland by seven seconds in the final. It was one of 23 speed skating medals won by the dominant Dutch in Sochi.
“We trained very hard for this and have kept our focus throughout, and if you do that, you’re going to do well,” said Ter Mors. “We’ve got a lot of great skaters who are all highly competitive; that’s the reason we just keep on improving.”
Ter Mors continued to excel across her two disciplines on the road to PyeongChang 2018, winning the 1,000m and 1,500m speed skating world titles in Kolomna (RUS) in 2016 and a world 1,000m bronze in Gangneung (KOR) in 2017. In short track, meanwhile, she landed 1,500m silver and 3,000m relay gold at the 2016 World Championships in Sochi.
Such is the level of competition in Dutch speed skating, however, that when the Olympic trials came around in December 2017 Ter Mors failed to qualify for the 1,500m, the event she won at Sochi 2014. She did manage to win the 1,000m event, however, and also book her place in the 500m. Needless to say, her place in the Netherlands’ short track team for the upcoming Olympics was also assured.
The history maker
Ter Mors’ PyeongChang 2018 campaign began in the 3,000m short track relay heats at the Gangneung Ice Arena, where the Dutch quartet she formed with Suzanne Schulting, Yara Van Kherkhof and Lara Van Ruijven qualified with ease.
Four days later she was in action in the 1,000m speed skating at the Gangneung Oval. Going out in the 12th pair, Ter Mors set a new Olympic record of 1:13.56 and then saw Japanese speedsters Nao Kodaira and Miho Takagi attempt and fail to beat it, though they did join the champion on the podium, in that order.
“I had to fight at the start of the season and make a few changes for the Games,” said the Dutch skater after sealing her third Olympic gold medal. “It’s paid off, though, and I’m delighted to be here as an Olympic champion. It’s the most beautiful medal and it’s come after some very hard work to hit peak form at the right time.”
Ter Mors then went for gold again in the 1,500m short track final but could only finish fifth in a race won by the Republic of Korea’s Choi Min-Jeong. The very next day she finished sixth in the speed skating 500m, which was followed by the Netherlands’ surprise elimination in the semi-finals of the 3,000m relay. Relegated to the B Final, Ter Mors, Van Kerkhof, Schulting and Van Ruijven promptly won it in a world-record time of 4:03.471.
Held the very same day, the A Final saw the Republic of Korea win over Italy, with all the other finalists being disqualified and the Dutch being awarded the bronze as a result. In winning the first Olympic short track medal of her career, Ter Mors made history by becoming the first female athlete ever to win medals in different disciplines at the same Winter Games. She capped her dream season in March with a world speed skating sprint title in Changchun (CHN).
Posting on her official website, the remarkable Ter Mors, who also won the Ard Schenk Award for the 2018 Dutch Speed Skater of the Year, wrote: “It’s not a question of winning or losing; it’s about working hard and meeting challenges head on.”