Belonging | on ice

 

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By Joost Gijzel (pictures) and Anoek Hofkens (text)

Vishwaraj Jadeja left his native India for the Netherlands to achieve his one goal: to win a medal for India at the Winter Olympics. “Everytime I’m on the ice, everything feels calm.”

The clicking of ice skates echoes through the Vechtsebanen [an indoor skating rink] as Vishwaraj emerges from the dressing room and approaches the smooth ice. He is the only skater with Olympic ambition hailing from India at the rink today. The freezing wind, typical for a Dutch winter, cuts through the open space. Outside snow is falling. Vishwaraj lifts his skates high into the air as he steps onto the ice. He stops just in front of the track and pulls his hat down over his ears.

 
 
Every time I’m skating on the ice, everything feels calm. It’s everything about it, even the way the cold air hits my face. That feeling of calm gives me a sense of belonging. I just know I’m right where I should be.
 
 

Vishwaraj trains every day with two Dutch skaters on coach Wim Nieuwenhuizen’s team. His personal goal is to win a medal at the Winter Olympics. “I like Holland, sure, but it’s because I am progressing all the time that I am still here. My coach is a big part of that, he is one of the reasons I have not given up. It’s really me and my coach against the world sometimes. Every personal record of mine is a national one for India, but I can do more. In India we see life as a gift instead of a right. That’s why I feel it’s my job to make the most out of my skating talent. No matter what.”

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By photographing and interviewing different kinds of people who feel at home in the Netherlands, photographer Joost Gijzel and journalist Anoek Hofkens show how diverse the Dutch society is. The question 'Where does someone belong?' is difficult to answer. It’s not necessarily the place where someone was born or where someone is meant to be. Where you belong is the place you long for at times when you’re not there.