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Olympics / Sports

Dutch continue dominance in speedskating

ADLER, Russia -- The ring of a cellphone interrupted Jorrit Bergsma's news conference after his Olympic Games 10,000-meter victory Tuesday night.

Netherlands prime minister Mark Rutte was calling.

"That was quite special that he called," Bergsma said after the conversation.

It was the least the prime minister could do.

After all, Bergsma's Olympic record-shattering triumph led the fourth Netherlands speedskating medals sweep of these Games and left the Dutch tied with the U.S. atop the medal standings with five days remaining in the Olympics.

Nineteen of the Netherlands' 20 medals to date have come on the Adler Arena oval where the Dutch have raised their sport above the U.S. skin suit controversy and to heights rarely, if ever, achieved at a sea-level competition with mind-boggling performances on an almost daily basis.

The Dutch men speedskaters alone have as many medals (12) in one sport as the entire German (5) and French (7) men's teams have combined, and three more than Canada's overall men's total.

"It's unbelievable how many medals the Dutch team has taken from these Olympic Games," said Bob de Jong, who picked up a bronze in the 10,000 to become the first male speedskater to medal in four Games.

But the most astonishing Dutch performance in 10 days of them came Tuesday when Bergsma upset one of the most anticipated story lines of these Games by destroying the Olympic record and superstar countryman Sven Kramer.

Four years ago, Kramer was skating away with the Olympic 10,000 race when his coach incorrectly instructed him to change lanes. The mistake led to Kramer being disqualified.

"It's still there," Kramer said when asked after his Olympic 5,000 victory last week how long it has taken him to get over the 2010 heartbreak. "Maybe it will be gone in two weeks."

Bergsma, however, had other ideas.

"It is a real pity what happened in Vancouver," said Bergsma, who was third behind Kramer in the 5,000 in Adler. "I can see people wanted him to take revenge, but I skate here for myself and I'm not going to give up a gold medal for that."

Skating in the next-to-last pairing, Bergsma, following his pre-race plan, cranked out one sub-31-second lap after another, before turning up the heat with 2,000 meters to go and powering in his orange speed suit through five sub-30 laps.

"I wanted to go fast but I didn't want to push it too much," Bergsma said. "I wanted to keep skating. I was able to do that until the end and that is a fantastic feeling."

He crossed the line in 12 minutes, 44.45, crushing the Olympic record of 12:58.55 set by South Korea's Lee Seung Hoon in Vancouver behind Kramer's apparent victory. Bergsma's performance also prompted an immediate debate on whether it is equal to or superior to Kramer's world record of 12:41.69 set at altitude in Kearns, Utah, seven years ago. Either way, it presented a daunting target for Kramer to shoot for in the final pairing.

Kramer, who had complained of back pain in recent days, trailed Lee early, before opening a big gap on the Korean by 4,000 meters, cruising along at a clip even faster than the one Bergsma had just set.

But by the 8,800 mark, the chase was too much for Kramer, who began laboring noticeably, swerving exhaustedly around each turn before finishing in a well-beaten 12:49.02 but still well under the old Olympic record. De Jong finished in 13:07.19 with Lee fourth in 13:11.68.

"I gave everything, but today it wasn't good enough," Kramer said. "Six or seven laps (2,400 to 2,800 meters) before the finish I was still three seconds under Jorrit's time but I knew he finished with laps in the 29 seconds (range). I couldn't do that.

"For me the whole point of being in the Olympic Games is to win the gold medal."

The dominant color of these Games, however, has been orange.

(c)2014 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)

Visit The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.) at www.ocregister.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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