Norway hosted the European Championships in speed skating in the iconic Vikingskipet arena in Hamar over the weekend, but the event failed to generate large crowds or any overall gold medals. Some were worried that public interest in speed skating has sunk to new lows.
Advance ticket sales were slow and there were lots of empty seats in the arena that was packed with cheering crowds when Johann Olav Koss won speed skating gold during the 1994 Winter Olympics. “We see quite a high average age among the spectators now, and I wish it would become cool for 25-year-olds to go to speed-skating competitions again,” Norway’s best medal candidate Håvard Bøkko told newspaper Aftenposten.
Bøkko did his best to make up for the lack of enthusiasm, winning the 500-meter event on opening day but only placing seventh in the 5,000-meter race. He went on to place third overall, while Jan Blokhuisen from the Netherlands won the European Championship.
Ida Njåtun performed best of the Norwegian women skaters, placing 14th overall.