The Canadian ice maker for the National Speed Skating Oval at the Beijing Olympics denied on Wednesday a media report suggesting the Dutch team was leaning on him to make conditions favorable for their skaters.
A website in the Netherlands quoted Dutch team scientist Sander van Ginkel last weekend as saying he shared tests and measurements with ice maker Mark Messer.
“By showing how I came up with my measurements, I hope to convince Messer and his people of my ideas,” Van Ginkel was quoted as saying. “For example, he now knows that the ice temperature is slightly above zero just after a resurfacing break.
“Messer understands that I share things like this with him because our team can benefit from it when the conditions are optimal … Look, ultimate responsibility for the ice remains with Messer at all times. By naming things and continuing to insist on adjustments that are in our favor, we can achieve something more.”
At his hotel in Beijing, Messer told Reuters it was totally false to infer he was bowing to pressure. The article showed pictures of Van Ginkel talking to him and testing the rink.
“The actual conversation that goes with that picture is me telling him not to come back, because I’m not going to tell him anything that I’m not going to tell every other country,” Messer, who has worked at six Olympics, said. “But they have twisted this around.
“It’s my reputation on the line … I’m very upset with this story and the way it’s developed.”
The Netherlands has traditionally dominated the sport, winning the highest total number of medals in speed skating with 121 overall and 42 gold medals.
Sweden’s 5000m speed skating gold medalist Nils van der Poel said that results would be called into question if fair play had been abused.
“Either they (the Dutch skating association) are actually trying to make the ice beneficial for the Dutch skaters, that’s an abomination … Or they are writing an article, releasing it on the day of the start of the Olympics, because they want to conduct a psychological operation towards the other skaters,” van der Poel said.
The technical director of the Dutch skating association, Remy de Wit, said his team believes in fair play, and he did not think their scientist had any influence over the ice.
“Our scientist is here to make sure we have the right knowledge about the ice that has been made by the icemakers,” de Wit said.
“I can understand that the words could be interpreted in an unlucky way. They could have been chosen differently. I am not responsible for what’s written in those articles.”
Van Ginkel could not be immediately reached for comment and there was no comment on the matter from Olympics organizers.