Four years ago "it was a bit of a rush"; now Shane Dobbin, well prepared this time around, is primed for a serious tilt at the Winter Olympics speed skating double in Sochi next month.

Dobbin was the first New Zealand athlete named for the Games in Russia, starting on February 7.

In fact, he'd done sufficient qualifying performances months ago, but protocols being what they are, he had to bide his time.

Dobbin, from Palmerston North but long domiciled on the Gold Coast, will contest the 5000m and 10,000m events at the 8000-seat Adler Arena in the Olympic Park at Sochi.


He turns 34 tomorrow and is a good example of an athlete who is on the cusp of making the highest echelon, but hasn't quite cracked it.

At last year's world championships, also in Sochi, Dobbin finished sixth in his preferred longer distance and 10th over 5000m. There have been a cluster of top 10 finishes, enough for Dobbin to know he's there, or thereabouts.

"In our sport, because it's so close if you have a bad day you can really drop down; have a good day and you can move up," he said.

"You really have to have everything going your way, otherwise it is a fight just to maintain an average result."

Dobbin's first skating affection was for inline, and he was a multiple world champion on wheels. Then in 2008, he knew it was time to stretch himself. In fact, he knows he should have made the switch earlier.

"The adaptation changes are a lot harder when you're older," he said.

"It just takes a bit more time and dedication, where I probably could have got through it a little quicker and easier when I was younger."

In Vancouver, Dobbin finished 17th in the 5000m. Call it a learning experience.


"It was a bit of a rush for me. I just wasn't on the ice long enough beforehand so I always felt I was playing catch-up.

"The last four years I've been able to trial a lot of different training techniques, technical things and now I'm in a position where I know what I want to do and can take that forward."

In the lead-up to Sochi, Dobbin had a crash, just before the World Cup circuit began. Therefore his cup results were not as good as he'd hoped. His coach, and father, Roy had to go back to New Zealand for a period, which didn't help either.

"It left me training without him from around Christmas time. Obviously this is not what I needed during my final preparations, but these things happen so you deal with them as best you can and keep your focus on the goal at hand.

"I have been training very well and I'm happy with my current form."

After the last World Cup, Dobbin headed to the Netherlands for several marathon distance races. The idea was to improve his endurance for the 10,000m, and he's confident it's had a positive effect which will last into Sochi.


In Vancouver, Dobbin had Canterbury's Blake Skjellerup for company. Skjellerup is hoping to get selected under the quota system. He was close to automatic qualification, but his prospects are rated slim.

This could be Dobbin's last run at the Games. The 2018 event will be in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

"If it did go well in Sochi I would probably consider retiring. It would be a nice way to finish my sporting career.

"It's a sad reality everyone has to stop at some stage and if you're able to stop when you want to I'd consider myself lucky."

And if this is to be it, Dobbin feels "my shape is near to where it needs to be".

"I don't think anyone can have the 'ideal' run to an event like the Olympics, but I feel like I've given it everything I've got in an effort to be the best prepared I can."


Shane Dobbin
* Shane Dobbin will contest the 5000m and 10,000m races at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
* He has the shorter distance on February 8 while his preferred longer race is on February 18.

* These are his second Olympics. The event runs from February 7-23.