The Netherlands’ Jorien ter Mors became the first woman to win a medal in two disciplines at the same Games at PyeongChang 2018. Having taken the gold in the 1,000 metres in the Olympic speedskating oval, she added a bronze with the Dutch 3,000 metres short track relay team a week later. A year on, the Dutch athlete relives her remarkable achievements in this exclusive interview for olympic.org.
"These were my third Olympics," recalls Ter Mors. "I was part of our short track relay team in Vancouver, which finished fourth in the final. That was disappointing at the time, but having gone through the overwhelming Olympic experience there, I knew what to expect in Sochi four years later and managed to focus on my game. I turned off my phone during the tournament, and just trained, ate and slept until my races were over." That meant two weeks of uninterrupted concentration, as the 1,000m short track was on the final day of the Games.
Combining both short track and speed skating required some intricate planning to race the qualifiers for the main tournaments. In Sochi her efforts produced two golds, both in speed skating (1,500m and relay), but she missed out on the podium in short track.
The 2018 Olympic season arrived with a major back injury, but she was fit in time for the Dutch Olympic qualifiers in speedskating. Failure to qualify for the 1,500m left her “devastated”. “It took me a week to pick myself up and realise that I had qualified for the 1,000m.”
The PyeongChang Games started with a downer as her best chance of a medal in short track seemed to evaporate as early as day 2, when the relay team bombed out of qualifying with a missed exchange, which consigned them to the B-final. It looked very much as if she was going to leave the sport she loved best without an Olympic medal.
“We were gutted, but as a short track racer you learn to pick up the pieces very quickly during a competition. The next race is never far away. The same goes for the Olympics. Meanwhile, I focused on my 1,000 metre speedskating. In practice, the week before, I felt great already, and as the race approached my form improved. I did not say as much to the media, but I knew I could win. And I did. When I crossed the finish line with an Olympic record, I was not tired at all.”
She now had a third speed skating gold to her name, but there was no time to celebrate as she still had three more events to come. Fifth in the 1,500m short track, then sixth in the 500m speed skating the next day, left her with only the B-final in the short track relay, and her prospects of that elusive short track medal looked slim. But she had not given up hope.
“In short track you know there is always the outside chance of disqualifications in the final. Our coach Jeroen Otter convinced us that there was still pride to be found by showing that we were the best team in the world if we could set a world record in our race. Yara van Kerkhof, Lara van Ruijven, Suzanne Schulting and I had become such a tight-knit team in training over the years that we knew we had it in us."
The Dutch performed like a perfect machine, with Ter Mors going ahead and the others following in sync. “It was full throttle from start to finish, although the Hungarians kept lurking on our backs, making me worried they would overtake us in the final round. But we won in a world record time, and after that it was just a case of waiting to see what happened.
“With the Koreans in the final race, there was bound to be trouble, but we needed two disqualifications to take the bronze. I was not counting on that happening, but the others did, bringing their podium gear just in case… and they were right! Winning a medal when you are not competing in the final sounds a bit lame, but thanks to the world record we felt it was really deserved."
After her historic feat of winning medals in speed skating and short track at the same Games, Ter Mors had a few days left to celebrate and enjoy her achievement. “After the Closing Ceremony most athletes went home to their loved ones, while I caught the flight to take us to the World Sprint Championships in Changchun. While the others were honoured or invited to appear on Dutch television, I spent a week in a Chinese hotel room. Fortunately, I won another title there.”
And she is now looking forward to a return to China, for the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, where – having achieved her goal of a short track medal – she plans to focus all of her energy on the speed skating events.