Jaap Havekotte is the founder of Viking. Jaap Havekotte, himself being a fanatic speed skater and carpenter by trade, has always sharpened his own skates. Other skaters often didn’t have their own sharpening block and asked Havekotte if he could sharpen their skates. This appeared to become a lucrative business for him. He ordered a special designed sharpener, which would also be suited for wooden skates. By means of posters in sports shops he was drawing the attention of skating enthusiasts, by his craftsmanship.
He received a guilder for every customer, whereas the shopkeeper charged a thaler (two and a half guilder). What had begun with grinding, soon resulted in repairing skates, like renewing heel leathers or repairing tubes. The production of Marathon skates, was the logical next move. He met Co Lassche, who was a starting skate manufacturer and sold his skates by visiting sports and hardware shops. When mister Lassche visited a shop, all asked whether they had a certificate of competence of Jaap Havekotte. Mister Lassche decided to visit Jaap Havekotte and they became partners.
They called the company Norsk model Viking. After two years mister Lassche decided to go his own way and Jaap Havekotte continued the company by the name: Viking Schaatsenfabriek BV
The first one that gained an appealing title on Viking skates wasn’t a Dutchman: it was the Russian Boris Stenin in 1960. He won the bronze medal on the 1500 meter during the Olympic Games in Squaw Valley, USA. In the same year Boris Stenin won silver at the EC allround and gold at the WC allround. This was the beginning of all success that would follow after Viking.
But the real breakthrough of Viking as a top brand came only in the second half of the sixties and was accompanied by successes of Ard Schenk and Kees Verkerk. Gold has always been won on Viking at all Olympic Games ever since 1964. The market position of Viking was further consolidated in the second half of the seventies when Viking launched its “Viking Special”. The model made of kangaroo leather and the known yellow piping was lighter than all other Marathon skates and was better shaped around the foot. Norwegians, Russians and Japanese people were all queuing and for the first time the foreign demand for Viking skates was greater than the Dutch demand.
In 1985 the first clap skates were tested by Viking, in co-operation with dr. Gerrit Jan Ingen Schenau of the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. Nevertheless, the top skaters didn’t dare to try the clap skate. In order to skate on Viking clap skates you need another technique. During the intensive training programs there was no time for this. Moreover, people were afraid that learning this new technique would be at the expense of the current technique of the skater. And if a speed skater doesn’t use these skates, the recreational skater will back off as well. Only when Tonny de Jong started to use the clap skates in the World Cup competition after being urged by his trainer Sijtje van der Lende and subsequently won the European Championship, there was no stopping it anymore.
It’s impossible to imagine the ice skating sport today without the clap skate. Nowadays they are used by many top skaters, like Sven Kramer, Wouter Oldeheuvel, Ireen Wüst and Svere Lunde Pedersen.