GB team speed skater Ellia Smeding: People don’t realize how much athletes sacrifice to train, says proud mother


Give most kids the chance to go to Disneyland on vacation and they’ll jump for joy asking when they can start packing. But when Ellia Smeding was given the opportunity to go to Paris on a family trip for her sister’s birthday, she told them she couldn’t miss training.

This isn’t the only sacrifice the 23-year-old has made in his quest to excel at his sport, his mother said, as Ellia prepares to compete at the Beijing Winter Olympics as the world’s first long-track speed skater. England team. for 42 years.

“Ellia has always had a calm resolve,” explains her mother, Sue Smeding. “He would describe himself as someone who didn’t have a natural talent for skating, but decided he liked it and really wanted to reach his potential, and he worked hard to make it happen.

“He has missed a lot of things during this time, such as family vacations, parties, hanging out with friends. But it’s always been his choice and even his perfectionism. He feels like he has to stick to his skating schedule to get the best out of himself.”

Born in Aylesbury, Ellia and her family lived in Oxfordshire until before she and her two sisters started high school.

Ellia Smeding showed determination from a young age and loved to skate, says her mother Sue Smeding (Photo: Sue Smeding)

Sue, married to Dutch-born Sjaak, whom she met at university, said: “We settled in England, but before the children went to secondary school, we decided that since they couldn’t speak Dutch , we would go to Holland for three months. .”

Three months quickly turned into a year, and since the family loved living there, they ended up staying. The Netherlands is also very sports-oriented, which suits Ellia and her sisters, as they all get into elite sports: one becomes a swimmer, the other a rower.

Ellia loved skating growing up in England, and when her family moved to the Netherlands, she started in-line skating. From there it is a natural step to ice skating during winter.

Ellia started skating when she was living in England. After moving to the Netherlands with his family, this soon developed into ice skating (Photo: Sue Smeding)

“Skating is the national sport here, so it’s very competitive,” said Sue. “Ellia was late developing but decided this was what she wanted. He loves skating and is determined to be the best he can be.”

Long track speed skating has been revived for Team GB with Ellia’s appearance at the Olympics after a long absence. The last time women’s track skaters represented women was at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.

But due to no structural funding for the long rink, Ellia has been supported by her family and has arranged everything herself to pursue her skating goals.

Ellia Smeding with her sister.  Her family is very sporty and one of her sisters is an elite swimmer while the other is a national level rower (Photo: Sue Smeding)
Ellia Smeding with her sister. Her family is very sporty: one of her sisters is an elite swimmer and the other is a national rower (Photo: Sue Smeding)

Ellia’s boyfriend, Cornelius Kersten, who also has a British mother and Dutch father, also competes in Beijing. A pair of skaters, who love coffee, came up with the idea of ​​using a single cup filter to grind and fill their own coffee beans so they can travel with their own coffee.

That culminated in the creation of his own coffee company, Brew 22, to help fund his Olympic ambitions, and it’s already proven a real success.

Sue describes Ellia and Cornelius as the perfect couple because even though they live, skate and work together, they are very happy. The couple first met in 2014 and officially got together in 2018.

Ellia Smeding and Cornelius Kersten.  The pair compete in figure skating at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics (Photo: Vincent Riemersma via Team GB)
Ellia Smeding and Cornelius Kersten. The pair compete in figure skating at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics (Photo: Vincent Riemersma/Team GB)

“Cornelius is very calm and relaxed, but very focused and determined,” says Sue.

“Ellia is the complete opposite and she is a perfectionist who likes to take control of life.

“They complement each other and he brings out the best in him, while he brings out the best in himself. It’s a fantastic relationship.”

Sue is proud that Ellia has achieved her childhood dream of reaching the Olympics, but says it’s hard not to be there to hug her because she knows her daughter gets nervous when she’s in the spotlight.

“With long track skating, there are only two people on the ice and all eyes are on you,” explains Sue. “Ellia was struggling at first and had anxiety about failure, where she would be amazing in training, but in actual racing, she was paying attention to everything around her and couldn’t focus. Being a perfectionist, he wants it to look good.

“But he did a lot of mental training to deal with the pressure of being on the ice and not getting distracted and he really did it.

“However, I knew that being at the Olympics with all the cameras and journalists and walking into the stadium would be absolutely incredible for him. I can’t hug him now, it’s so hard.”

Ellia Smeding with her parents and sister.  Her mother, Sue Smeding, said Ellia had made many sacrifices over the years because of her dedication to figure skating, including skipping family vacations because she didn't want to miss training (Photo: Sue Smeding)
Sue’s mother Ellia says her daughter has made many sacrifices over the years because of her dedication to figure skating (Photo: Sue Smeding)

Sue wants people to appreciate how hard elite athletes work and that reaching the Olympics is not an overnight success.

“People don’t always recognize or appreciate the passion, failure, mornings, sacrifices, and missed parties,” he says.

“They dedicated their lives to it and it was a tough road and a very difficult life to live. But it made Ellia happy because this was what she wanted.

“He made it to the Olympics through determination and hard work. This is his first step, but I think in four years, ‘be careful’ because he is so determined.


Henrietta Fairbank

"Amateur analyst. Zombie geek. Hardcore troublemaker. Internet expert. Incurable twitter fanatic."

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