Vish: an Olympic ice skater from India living in Utrecht
Hi, Vishwaraj Jadeja, a.k.a. Vish here with my story of me living in Utrecht.
How does an Indian guy like me end up in Utrecht? Well, I come from India where I engaged in skeeler competitions. I started skating at the age of 4 on a pair of make-shift roller skates. Initially, as a roller skater, I started my competitive career in 1999. When I became a national champion with inline skating I thought: and now what? My new goal was competing in the Olympics of 2018. But inline skating isn’t an Olympic sport, so I switched to ice skating.
Ice skating was the reason to move to Utrecht
First I pursued my dreams and ambitions in Copenhagen but after a while, I came in contact with my coach Wim Nieuwenhuizen, who happened to coach at the Vechtsebanen ice track in Utrecht. I was happy to follow him to this small but international oriented city.
One of the things I like about Utrecht is, of course, the great outdoor ice track, with its own bus station. And the fact that the KNSB - the National Ice Skating Federation- is located in Utrecht makes this place also interesting for me.
Utrecht grew on me
The city really grew on me. Of all the people I know here, there is only one Indian. That’s remarkable because most of the time people from India or other countries cling to each other when they move abroad. Utrecht is different. I was able to make Dutch friends, make true connections. My experience is that the people in Utrecht, or rather the Netherlands, are quite open. I’ve always felt really welcome here. People are really nice. When I was still new here and had to go to the start of the track, people would announce it in English. Especially for me.
Oudegracht and the music scene
Sports at this level asks a lot and takes up much of my time. But the spare time I have I can spend in a very relaxed way in Utrecht. My favorite place in the city center is de Oudegracht. I can’t wait for it to be frozen this winter so I can skate on it. But also walking alongside the gracht (canal) is very nice. Also along the Oudegracht is Het Oude Pothuys, a great place to go and listen to live music. But mostly I enjoy live music in the living rooms of my friends. I have a lot of friends that are musicians. That already started when I was living in Kanaleneiland. I was involved in Knalland, a collective of musicians. That was a wonderful place and time! Now I live in the city center which is a little bit different. There, the Conservatorium is a nice place to go to find some interesting music and musicians. I feel a true connection with the musicians and artists of Utrecht.
Biking is safe
I love being able to bike around the center without the risk of hitting a car. Cars actually stop when I am riding my bike. Also outside of the city, in the Utrecht region countryside, it’s like that. On my racing bike, I never have to worry about being hit. The respect for bikers is huge. So special, but it can also become a bubble in which you think you are untouchable.
Laidback and safe
When friends from India come and visit me they often want to go to Amsterdam. But when they take the time to explore Utrecht they like Utrecht much more. They think the city is laidback, people are aware of things and also the safety is wonderful. You can actually bike back home at three o clock at night. Even for women that is no problem here in Utrecht. What’s also nice: the policemen in Utrecht are really nice and mainly busy checking lights on bicycles. If that is all they have to worry about…
Being on time is challenging
In short, I love Utrecht because of the welcoming nature, the openness, the ease to move around and the safety (I would give it a 9.7 out of 10). The thing I was surprised about was the fact that no building can be taller than the Dom. And what I am still struggling with is being on time (something the Dutch value a lot) and maybe some will think I am loud. But hey, that’s me and it’s all ok in laidback Utrecht.
At least four more years in Utrecht
Unfortunately, I won’t be able to compete in the Olympics of 2018, because of an injury resulting from a crash. Now I am facing four more years in Utrecht, but I do not mind at all! If I had to stay longer in for example Friesland I wouldn’t have liked it, but since Utrecht is such a great city I am happy to stay.