Basic military training re-ignited skate star Nils van der Poel’s career

Sweden’s Nils van der Poel won two gold medals at the World Single Distances Championships in the Dutch town of Heerenveer this weekend. Only a couple of months after his comeback to the sport, van der Poel set a new world record in the 10000m race to add to the 5000m title he won on 11 February. The secret to his success? Military service at the Swedish Army Ranger Battalion in Arvidsjaur.

Nils van der Poel conducted military training at the Army Ranger Battalion in Arvidsjaur. Photo: Klaas Jan van der Weij
Nils van der Poel hosts the Swedish flag at the Royal Palace in Stockholm. Photo: Private

“Basic military training as a conscript soldier at the Army Ranger Battalion is the hardest thing I have ever done. I love my comrades and I am so very grateful to my superiors. Every day I miss my backpack, the camaraderie and the job”, says Nils van der Poel.

Nils van der Poel conducted his basic military training in 2018-19 as part of a two-year hiatus from competitions. His intention was to make a spectacular comeback at the 2021 World Speed Skating Championships in Heerenveen in Holland.

“Some said my plan was foolish, and my decision raised some eyebrows, but to me it felt logical and smart”, says Nils van der Poel in an interview with Swedish public broadcaster SVT.

Nils van der Poel, 24, is the first Swede to seal a gold in the classical sport since 1976. In 2014 and 2015, he won gold in the 5000m at the Junior World Championships. In the Olympic Games in South Korea in 2018, he came in 14th place.

Now, the future looks bright for this Swedish skate star.