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Copyright 2014 The Deseret News Publishing Co.
Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)
Amy Donaldson 

SOCHI, Russia - The U.S. speedskaters shouldn't blame their high-tech skinsuits, their high-altitude training camps or their high-performance program, according to the coach who won a record number of medals in the sport in Sochi.

They should blame the country's passion for football.

"It's more about the system you have in your country," said Dutch speedskating coach Jillert Anema in interviews with CNBC on Thursday. "You have a lot of attention for a foolish sport like American football. You waste a lot of athletic talent in a sport where it's meant to kill each other, to injure each other and nobody in the world is competing with you at that field."

His rant about what went wrong for the Americans came the day before the long track teams failed to win either of the quarterfinal races. The U.S. men lost to Canada, while the women lost to the Netherlands.

Anema has lead his team to a record 22 speedskating medals - with a few more on the line. No other country has ever won more medals in a single sport at a Winter Olympics.

Everyone in Sochi is wondering what the secret to Dutch success is, and he said it's simple.

"We have found something that makes the suit very fast," Anema said. "It's the man in the suit."

He said the U.S. doesn't value its winter and Olympic sports the way it does sports that are almost exclusively American, like football. Because they don't invest the kind of money in winter sports that they do in football, he asserts they will never be as successful as other countries like the Netherlands.

It is American arrogance that allows an expectation of medals without more serious financial support, he said.

"Come once every four years, you think with a few lone wolves who are skating, you can beat the world?" he said, obviously shocking, and at times amusing, those who were interviewing him. "America always believes they're right, always believes that they're the best. But that's not true. ... When you come to Olympic stadium and you want to fight the rest of the world, then you know your place. Stay in your country, do your own sport, don't compete. ... Don't ask a question why you didn't win medals."

He said football doesn't just consume America's finances and attention, it "wastes" its best athletes. He did admit to enjoying the Seahawks' defeat of the Broncos in the Super Bowl,.

"You put all money into that sport, not a lot of money into other sports," he said, adding that the U.S. won't beat the Netherlands in four years - or eight years - with the system in place. "You're so narrow-minded. You waste a lot of good talent."

Near the end of the interview, Anema did say that he likes basketball, and enjoys watching his 'favorite' Utah Jazz when he is in Salt Lake City.

Twitter: adonsports



February 24, 2014




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I agree with a lot of what he says and think he is largely correct. I love football but have always found it bizarre that our best athletes participate in a sport that due to the nature of the sport: high speed collisions and talented athletes of the same size, speed and strength attempting to tackle each other, that often times reduces their careers due to the type of injuries they sustain. The best example I can think of is Gale Sayers. I imagine what kind of speed skater, soccer player or you name the sport, that Sayers or modern day athletes like Adrian Peterson or Navarro Bowman would be if they didn't play football and get injured by other players attemping to block or tackle them. Baseball voting to largely control homeplate collisions is not far from the thought process this Dutch coach states.