When Ted-Jan Bloemen was a young speed skater, he struggled to find his place in the Netherlands' fabled star system.
He was merely a good skater in a place that expects the absolute best. Bloemen knew that he had more in him, but he couldn't find that mix of coaching, practice and competition that great performances demand.
It's hard to overstate how much strength of mind it took for him to leave the Dutch team behind and come to Canada in pursuit of better results. It's also hard to overstate how incredibly well that decision worked out for the 34-year-old.
Bloemen did not just thrive in Canada — he became one of the top endurance speed skaters in the world. He smashed the 10,000-metre record. He won Olympic gold. He was named a world champion. Long-distance skating is an area Canada had never ever done particularly well in, but Bloemen's success made the world look at Canada's speed skating system in amazement.
Bloemen's wins have also opened doors for the next generation of Canadian speed skating greats. Young athletes have an example to follow now, to go with a program that has been proven to work.
As he tells fellow speed skater Anastasia Bucsis on the Player's Own Voice podcast, Bloemen is not criticizing the Dutch system. Like hockey in Canada, skaters in Holland are thrown in among the best of the best. The Dutch system has so much talent that it can afford to let a prospect get away.
For someone like Ted, who needed a little more time to find his wheels, Canada's openness to developing a promising talent was just the ticket.
Like the CBC Sports' Player's Own Voice essay series, the POV podcast lets athletes speak to Canadians about issues from a personal perspective. To listen to all three seasons, subscribe for free on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Tune In or wherever you get your other podcasts.