Standing on the frozen ice of Lake St. Moritz, Victoria Stirnemann (GER) and Gunda Niemann-Stirnemann (GER) make for a pretty good team.
Stirnemann is the 17-year-old speed skater set to compete in the women’s 500m, 1500m and mass start events at the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games.
Her mother Niemann-Stirnemann is the three-time Olympic Winter Games gold medallist and German Sports Hall of Fame inductee having won the 3000m and 5000m events at the Albertville Olympic Winter Games in 1992, and the 3000m six years later in Nagano. She also happens to be the speed skating coach for the junior German national team.
“I used to get goosebumps at the Olympics,” Niemann-Stirnemann said. “I still get them. I got them at the Opening Ceremony the other night.
“I enjoy watching the young athletes experience the Games for the very first time.”
Stirnemann is already an exciting talent in her own right, with three World Cup Juniors top-three finishes to her name. Starting on 12 January, the Lausanne 2020 speed skating events offer her a chance to race towards even greater successes.
“The Olympics has been special to me throughout my life,” she said. “I think this is the first step [towards participating in the Olympic Winter Games].
“With the ice, the mountains and the sun it feels like I’m in a picture postcard. I’ve never skated on natural ice before so I’m really excited to start.”
Having taken up judo and athletics as a five-year-old, Stirnemann was intrigued by her mum’s role as a skating coach for young children.
“I saw her at the track,” she said. “I was there with my dad to pick her up. I said, ‘Why can’t I do that?’ And then I was unstoppable.”
Watching videos of her mother’s Olympic successes – and her tumbles – later proved inspirational, as did her love of high-speed racing. “The women go at 50 kilometres per hour. That’s crazy on our legs.”
Now, with four days of thrills and spills at the Speed Skating Oval to focus on, Stirnemann is leaning on her teammates for support, not to mention her highly decorated coach.
“I’ve been preparing for this competition with my mum for a whole year,” she said. “Now to have her here at the Olympics as my coach is even more special.
“I’m really lucky because she’s my inspiration.”