The Unforgettable Journey: Irene Schouten Steps Away From Skating

Irene Schouten Retirement

This article was last updated on February 21, 2024

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End of a Dazzling Career

Irene Schouten has announced that she is hanging up her skates and saying goodbye to her illustrious career. The three-time Olympic champion from Beijing has made the tough call: the curtain has fallen on her top sports career. It’s possible that her swansong was last week at the World Championships. Aged 31, Schouten has revealed that she is gearing up for the next chapter of her life. After a remarkable 15-year course in top-tier sports, she has her sights set on exploring new horizons. Since her triumphant performance at the 2022 Winter Olympics, she’s been taking her career one year at a time, all the while knowing that she would have to call it a day sooner or later.

Leaving on a High Note

Schouten is fully aware that her decision to retire might come as a shock to the speed skating community. The announcement even seems surprising to Schouten herself, considering her recent impressive performances and superb form. With three golds and one silver from this year’s World Cup, she’s on top of her game. However, she sounds certain and unequivocal, declaring that her ambition for another Olympic Games has faded. She’s ready to explore life beyond the ice.

Health Above All

It’s been a challenging period for Schouten. The week preceding the World Championships saw her battling illness. The camera interviews and her appearance on the NOS Skating podcast were punctuated by bouts of coughs. As the National All-round Championships in Heerenveen approach, her decision to participate—or not—hangs in the balance. However, she prioritizes her health above all else.

A Tearful Acceptance

Schouten walked away from last weekend’s World Championships with three world titles and a silver medal. It was her crowning moment, her best-ever championship, and she leaves the sport with her head held high. The firm resolve in Schouten’s eyes turns to a tearful acceptance as the reality of her retirement sinks in. It feels strange, she admits, no longer carrying the title of “top athlete.” After dedicating 15 long years to a sport that’s been her life, saying goodbye evokes raw emotions. It’s the end of a routine of going to bed on time to ensure her best performance or avoiding social gatherings to evade illness. Now, she feels ready to embrace a life less restricted by her sports commitments.

A Conclusion to Be Proud of

A month ago, Schouten broke the news to her coaches, Jillert Anema and Arjan Samplonius. Noting her unwavering motivation and conviction during training sessions, the announcement took them by surprise. But that’s the way Schouten wanted it—to maintain her passion for the sport, invisible to her decision to retire. Irrespective of any advice, Schouten couldn’t envision herself compromising the commitment she held for her sport. If she wasn’t going to go all out, she’d rather step back. With a stellar track record, including three Olympic golds, world titles in 3k and 5k events, the mass start, and the team pursuit, Schouten states, “I won what I wanted to win.” Comparing her future prospects with her past performances, she’s certain that the previous Games won’t easily be surpassed. For her, that’s achievement enough. It’s been a good race.

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