Ice Network

Groothuis bags Dutch another gold with 1,000m win

Canada's Morrison takes silver as fill-in; Disappointed Davis lands eighth
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Stefan Groothuis, the fourth-place finisher in the 1,000 at the 2013 World Championships, skated a track-record time of 1:08.39 and won the gold for Netherlands' dominant long track team. -Getty Images

The Dutch men are on a roll.

In the third men's distance of these Olympic Winter Games, the 1,000 meters, the Dutch team struck again, though not all three medals went to the Netherlands this time. Dutch skater Stefan Groothuis won in 1:08.39, a track record, with Canada's Denny Morrison claiming the silver in 1:08.43 and the Netherlands' Michel Mulder, the 500-meter champion, snagging bronze in 1:08.74, thus becoming the first multiple medalist in Sochi. Two-time Olympic champion Shani Davis of Team USA had to settle for eight place. 

In pair 16, just before the eight skaters who were in the best start group, Groothuis raced, paired with Germany's Nico Ihle.

"I thought, 'Cool, I race early,'" Groothuis said. "I won't be bothered with fast times of others."

Groothuis started with 16.64, followed by a 25.1 lap with Ihle in the lead and Groothuis a little slower than the leader. But then, Groothuis -- in an excellent 26.6 last lap -- reached 1:08.39, a track record half a second faster than the current leader.

Groothuis' coach, Jac Orie, was emotional.

"We had this in our heads," he said. "16.6, 25.1 and then a 6.6. This time, it worked out exactly as planned."

But then the wait came and lasted four pairs. First, Mulder and Morrison skated. Mulder's opening was one befitting a 500-meter champion: 16.24. Morrison had the same opening and passing time as Groothuis, gaining 0.01 on him but losing 0.05 in the final lap. His 1:08.43 was similar, strong, but slower than Groothuis.

"At that point, I thought that Shani was going to get it," Groothuis said. "It was nerve-wracking."

But Shani didn't.

His opening was the same as that of the top skaters, but then he lost 0.4 seconds in the first lap and another 0.4 in the second lap, reaching 1:09.12. His pair mate, Koen Verweij of the Netherlands, managed to pass him in the last lap, with the fastest lap in the field, 26.56, reaching 1:09.09. Thus, the two main favorites did not medal.

The other American who had reached the podium this year several times, Brian Hansen, couldn't do better than Davis, finishing right behind him in ninth with a 1:09.21 time.

There was a little story behind Morrison's silver medal. Morrison had been a favorite in the previous two Olympics but had not delivered, finishing 19th and 13th.

"This is the first time I'm actually satisfied with my race," Morrison said. "I knew deep down it was a good race, even if it should not bring me a medal."

This time, he did not even qualify, as he fell in the last meters of the Olympic trials for this distance, and there was too little time before the reskate to recover and deliver a strong enough race. But his teammate, Gilmore Junio, after his 500 meters where he finished 10th, sent him a text message Monday evening, asking him if he was ready to take over his place in the 1,000 meters. Morrison had to go see him in person to thank him and say he was happy to skate.

"I owe him something," he said after the race. "He told me we need medals in the team and he believed I could do it. That was the only pressure. I am the luckiest guy in the world. It is a dream, a fairytale story, difficult to believe it is happening."

"It was a no-brainer for me," Junio said. "It was an easy decision when the coaches asked me. My parents have taught me to consider the greater good rather than selfish needs. I am almost speechless that things worked out. I couldn't be happier if I skated myself."

"Maybe we can have Gilmore as a flag bearer; I would like to lobby for that," Morrison said.

"I wanted to give it all the energy I had," Mulder said. "Winning bronze was a bonus, but it is not at all comparable with winning gold. In my race with Morrison, he came really quick in the corner, and I tried to get him in the last corner, but that did not work. I haven't had time yet to celebrate, but now I am done and will switch my phone back on."

"This was the best time I ever skated on a lowland rink," Groothuis said." I've never medaled in Olympics before, but now I get a medal; it is gold.

"In Torino, I was starting to become a world-class skater and an outsider for the medals, had a strong race, the fastest lap, but ruined it in the last corner. In Vancouver, it was really dramatic because I got a fever three weeks before, and that lasted a week. For my Olympics, it was disastrous. But this is beautiful."

The American team did not quite perform up to expectations. Davis was the best, in eighth place, while Hansen was ninth, Joey Mantia was 15th and Jonathan Garcia 28th.

Hansen had pulled out of the second 500 meters on Monday due to a groin problem.

"I wouldn't say it was precautionary," Hansen said. "I didn't feel good, but I also knew it was not a very serious injury. I have a lot to think about now. Maybe it was too much pressure, but I have no regrets.

"It feels good that Groothuis and Morrison won; they have been around for quite some time and didn't come out of the blue. That is better than an 18-year-old rookie out of nowhere."

Davis was also really disappointed.

"What Denny and Stefan did was amazing," Davis said. "They just had a crazy amount of speed today. That is a part of the race where I usually shine, but today, for some reason, I wasn't able to do it. Unfortunately, it had to be today."

"I don't think it is the suit, but that it is me," Mantia said. "Olympic nerves. Anyway, the 1,000 is not my main race; it is training for the 1,500 meters. And this is only the third year that I compete on ice."

Hansen's coach, Nancy Swider-Peltz, who was asked whether the suits weren't as fast after all, said that -- in her opinion -- it was not the right decision to go training in Collalbo before Sochi, and that they had to go even if she preferred not to go.