Hilbert van der Duim

Biographical information

RolesCompeted in Olympic Games • Other
Full nameHilbert•van der Duim
Used nameHilbert•van der Duim
Born4 August 1957 in Beetsterzwaag (NED)
Measurements180 cm / 75 kg
AffiliationsHCH, Heerenveen (NED)
NOC Netherlands


Hilbert van der Duim was the best Dutch skater in the first half of the 1980s, winning the 1980 and 1982 World Championships, the 1983 and 1984 European Championships, as well as seven consecutive Dutch allround titles (1979-85), a record. The bronze medallist at the 1977 World Junior Championships, Van der Duim debuted with the seniors in 1978. He competed in all five distances at the 1980 Olympics, his best finish being fourth in the 5000 m. It was quite a surprise when he became World Champion a week later in his hometown of Heerenveen, becoming the first man to beat Eric Heiden in an international championship since 1976. However, it was later revealed by the ice master that he had manipulated the ice breaks in Van der Duim’s favor.

The following season, he was in pole position to win the European Championships, but fell during the final distance. Unwilling to talk to the press, he declared he had slipped because of “bird droppings”, a phrase that stuck with the public. At the World Championships that same year, Van der Duim again made the news in a less desirable way: he finished his 5,000 m race one lap too soon. He only realized this after shouting from the audience and his coach, and still managed to finish ninth. A fall in the 1,500 m ruined his chances to retain his title. He made up for the 1981 season the following year, finishing third in the European Championships and winning his second World title. In 1983, after winning his first European title, Van der Duim was briefly suspended from the Dutch skating team after appearing on TV while wearing clothing from a different sponsor than that of the Dutch federation. His appearance at the World Championships was also notable, but not because of his performances, but because of his suit. After the example of cycling, he wore a “rainbow suit” as the reigning World Champion. He closed the season on a high, taking the bronze in the World Sprints.

In spite of a second European title, the 1984 season was disappointing, mainly because he failed to win a medal at the Winter Olympics in Sarajevo. After the 1985 season, Van der Duim quit long-track skating and switched to marathon skating. He was fairly successful in marathon, placing eighth in the 1986 Elfstedentocht, and winning the Dutch championships on natural ice. On 28 November 1986 Van der Duim broke the unofficial 1-hour World Record with 39,492.8 m during the opening of the new indoor rink in Heerenveen. On 6 February 1987 he became involved in a car crash in which one person was killed, and his injuries forced him to quit skating. In the 1990s, Van der Duim served in the municipal council of Assen as a member of local party Plop.

Personal Bests: 500 – 37.7 (1982); 1000 – 1:15.80 (1981); 1500 – 1:57.57 (1985); 5000 – 6:59.73 (1982); 10000 – 14:27.81 (1982).


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1980 Winter Olympics Speed Skating (Skating) NED Hilbert van der Duim
500 metres, Men (Olympic) =28
1,000 metres, Men (Olympic) 21
1,500 metres, Men (Olympic) 11
5,000 metres, Men (Olympic) 4
10,000 metres, Men (Olympic) 6
1984 Winter Olympics Speed Skating (Skating) NED Hilbert van der Duim
1,000 metres, Men (Olympic) =7
1,500 metres, Men (Olympic) 7
5,000 metres, Men (Olympic) 9
10,000 metres, Men (Olympic) 10

Other participations

Games Role NOC As
1984 Winter Olympics Flagbearer at the Opening Ceremony NED Hilbert van der Duim

Special Notes