University of Calgary

Your Alumni

Olympian has a two-track mind

By Bridget Cox

Speed skater Arne Dankers’s laid-back demeanor belies the fact that at 26, he has competed in two Olympic Games—winning a silver medal—and has earned an electrical engineering degree from the University of Calgary.

“There are guys on the team who are stronger and faster than me, and there are other skaters who want it more than I do,” says Dankers, BSc’05.

“Somehow, I can race faster than they do. I guess I have a good body for speed skating; my femurs are the right length and I have good lungs.”

Dankers’s femurs have carried the Calgary native around the Olympic Oval’s speed-skating ice since he was eight, training to become Canada’s top long-distance male speed skater. In 2005, he set the 5,000-metre Canadian record and he won silver in the men’s team pursuit at the 2006 Torino Olympics.

“I am grateful for all the things I have learned from sport like leadership and dedication. I am lucky that I had the chance to train here and that my parents could afford it,” he says.
Dankers’s mother, Dr. Marja Verhoef, is a professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences.

A year ago, Dankers proclaimed that 2005/ 2006 would be his last speed-skating year so that he could focus on school. But after being accepted into the U of C master’s program he decided to give the sport another year.

“With the University of Calgary and Olympic Oval in the same place, I’ve never had to choose one over the other,” he says.

Dankers is set to compete in three World Cup races next month. “I don’t have any goals for what kind of placing I want to achieve; I just want to enjoy the racing season.”

Still, Dankers plans to make this his final season. “I’ve always known that I can’t skate forever. I’m looking forward to all the things I want to do when skating is finished.”

Dankers hopes to complete a PhD in Quebec, where he can improve his French and continue studying, with the eventual goal of teaching. “I love school and think it’s great when a professor can make a subject interesting for students.”