Holland's Sven Wins Again
This weekend, Dutch speed skater Sven Kramer won his fifth European Allround Championship. If you are not Dutch, you may remember Sven from the 2010 Winter Olympics as the guy who mistakenly changed lanes too early or too late and lost one of his gold medals. Or, for asking an Olympic reporter, "Are you stupid?" Neither being publicly proud moments for the Dutch King of the Rink.
(photo rights purchased through Getty Images)
Interviewing Sven in 2010
In 2010, after the Olympics and the day after the World Championships, I was asked to interview Sven Kramer for AEGON. It was the last hoorah party for the skaters since AEGON was no longer sponsoring Dutch skating. It was a bittersweet moment for some of the skaters who had grown up knowing AEGON as a Dutch sponsor for 25 years.
"Are you stupid?"
While preparing for my interview, I came across the now infamous "Are you stupid" video which has now been blocked by the International Olympic Committee. Sven Kramer had just walked off the ice after winning the gold for the 5000m speed skating race, when an Olympic reporter asks, "If you can say your name and your country and what you just won here." On tape and live, Sven answers, "Are you stupid? Hell no! I'm not going to do that."
Not surprisingly, Sven received some bad press for the comment which aired multiple times during the Olympics. In the Netherlands, skating is a popular sport and Sven Kramer is one of skating's most popular heroes. In the Netherlands, Sven is and was a big fish in a small frozen Dutch pond. In the international sporting world, Sven is a small fish in a big pond. No matter how famous you think you are, kids around the world do not exchange or collect international speed skater cards.
Breaking the ice
Before my interview, the "Are you stupid" comment was haunting me. I was really nervous and worried that he would not want to help with the interview, or he would be rude or cocky. He was neither. I decided to clear the air and use the video to break the speed skating ice.
My first question to Sven was, "Could you just state your name and country for us?"
Sven threw his head back, laughed and said, "You've been watching youtube!"
He wasn't mean or evil, and was even nostalgic as he recalled his father who had also skated with AEGON on his chest and stocking cap. Sven said, "I remember the AEGON suits hanging in my dad's closet and I couldn't wait until I was big enough to fit in one. It was a proud day for me when I also wore the AEGON skating suit."
Skating champions on a break
The day I interviewed Sven was the first day of the skaters' break. I also asked, "You are now on a break, but what do you do when you rest? Probably not the same as we do?" Sven laughed, and said, "No, I will run and stuff." Unfortunately, only parts of the very charming, candid, adorable Sven Kramer interview appeared for the AEGON internal audience and employees.
International skater = international website
My lesson from the whole situation was that I needed to come uber-prepared for interviews. If I have done my homework, then I shouldn't worry about how other reporters were treated. Sven Kramer was gracious, helpful, fun, laughed a lot and even agreed with a smile to take a pic with me.
Now, in 2012, if Sven Kramer still wants to be recognized as an international superstar sports celebrity, he needs to have an English website and English Facebook page. I happen to know a not-so-speedy-skating big fat writer who can help. Gladly.
Article about Sven Kramer and the "Are you stupid" video (in English)
Sven Kramer online (in Dutch)
Sven Kramer Facebook (in Dutch)
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