Long track skater Femke Kok became European Champion during the 500 meters at the European Championships last Saturday. Kok clocked a time of 37.72 seconds and thus finished ahead of World Champion Angelina Golikokva (37.43) and Daria Katsjanova (37.58) from Russia. With this achievement, Kok received her first international title.
Kok finished fourth in the European Championship distances in the 500 meters in 2020. Last year she took silver at that distance at the World Championships in Heerenveen, and last weekend it was finally meant to be so: a golden medal for Kok!
Defending champion Olga Fatkulina was missing in skating rink Thialf, but Kok was happy that her compatriots were there. "You want to race against the best. I would have been very disappointed if they hadn't been able to participate.” The Russian team reported that part of the team had tested positive for Corona upon arrival in the Netherlands. The entire team was therefore put into quarantined. Most Russian skaters were agile again on the second day of the European Championship, but Fatkulina was not among them.
Compete against the best
After a tough preseason and the disappointing start of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, Kok managed to take first place on the second day. Thanks to this first place, she qualified for the 500 meters at the Beijing Olympics. In Beijing, Kok may not have to compete against American Erin Jackson, one of the favorites.
Erin Jackson did not immediately qualify for the Olympics. It is therefore uncertain whether the top favorite can still participate. She won four of the eight 500 meters at the World Cup this season but finished third in the US qualifying tournament. This third place was not good enough for a place in the Olympics.
“I think that's very unfortunate for her,” Kok reacted after her own race. The absence of Jackson increased the chances of Kok, but she hopes to be able to compete against her. "You'd almost say they can't let her miss out. She has won four World Cups, so I think they should just let her go.”
In the Netherlands, skaters who do not immediately qualify for the Olympic Games can still be designated by the association, but the American rules are less flexible. However, there are still shortcuts for Jackson, for example, if other countries cancel, or if one of the American skaters (who did manage to qualify) withdraws.
Kok hopes Jackson will join. “I just think it's really sad,” she said. “Because you just want to compete against the best. She just belongs there. When I'm at the start I just want to beat the very best. It makes you feel more satisfied, if you win from that.”