Accelerating Bergsma leads Dutch sweep of 10,000Kramer settles for silver; 37-year-old De Jong adds bronze to collection
Dutch skater Jorrit Bergsma won the men's 10,000 meters at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, and he did so in an Olympic record time of 12:44.45, also a track record and personal best. He beat his countryman, Sven Kramer, who had something to set right after the previous Olympics where he had the fastest time but was disqualified for a wrong lane change. Kramer had no choice but to bow to Bergsma on Tuesday, grabbing silver in 12:49.02.
Bob de Jong, also of the Netherlands, got the bronze medal, just like four years ago, even if his time was "only" 13:07.19. The oldest male speed skater (37 years and 97 days) to win a medal in 86 years thus became the first man in speed skating to win at least one medal at four different Olympic Winter Games.
2010 champion Seung-Hoon Lee finished in fourth place at 13:11.68.
The Netherlands swept the podium for the fourth time here in Sochi, pushing their gold-medal count to six, which equals the country's overall tally at the 2012 Olympic Summer Games. With 101 medals in speed skating, only Norway (103 in cross country skiing) and Austria (110 in alpine skiing) have more medals in a single sport.
Bergsma, who is the reigning world champion in this distance and held the track record of 12:57.69, opened steady but then picked up his pace. He had five laps just above 30.5, then a row of laps just under 30.5, and after 6,400 meters, laps from 30.1 down to 29.8, continuing to skate in the 29's until he crossed the finish line.
"I managed to start relaxed and find the right movement and steady state," Bergsma said. "From there, I could speed it up.
"I knew, with a good race, I would win here. My coach calculated that 12:45 was what I could do here if I did everything right, and he also calculated that the maximum that Sven could do was 12:47."
Kramer, who skated in the final pairing with Lee, opened faster than anyone else. After 2,000 meters, Kramer gained almost three seconds on Bergsma and continued with laps in the low 30's, and after 3,000 meters, Kramer built an advantage of nearly four seconds. At 6,400 meters, Bergsma's lap times had gone down, but Kramer -- who has often pulled off similar feats in the last laps -- lacked that power, losing ground and posting a very good time, but not the winning time.
"I am disappointed, but I saw this coming," Kramer said. "I had too much trouble with pain. The first week and a half here, I felt good, but lately I got a back problem, which is not an excuse but a fact. I am not taking away anything from the awesome achievement of Jorrit.
"Four years ago, it was a harder blow because then I was the strongest," he continued. "Now, I was beaten 'on value.'"
De Jong, who was the first of the Dutch to skate, announced that he wanted more than the bronze he got four years ago and thought he was the best of the three in training. However, he did not manage to find the right rhythm and relaxation and realized during his race that he was not going to win. Irritated with himself, he let his lap times go up even more.
"I skated much too short," De Jong said. "In a way, it is bad that you can be on the podium with a time like this. Of course I am happy with another medal in my collection. It feels better now than in Vancouver when I also thought I lost a medal but won it because of Kramer's disqualification."
Emery Lehman was the best of the Americans, finishing in 13:28.67, which was good enough for 10th place. He enjoyed skating beside Russian Yevgeny Seryayev.
"Being paired against a Russian at his Olympics is definitely a really cool experience," Lehman said. "I'd rather have people cheering the other guy than no one cheering at all."
American Patrick Meek won the first pair in 13:28.72 with a faster second half than first half. He ended up 11th, just 0.05 behind his teammate.
An interesting subplot was how the Norwegians pulled out of the race, conceding to the Dutch, leading some to suggest the 10,000 meters should be abolished.
"I can understand the Norwegians pulling out of the 10k to get ready for the team pursuit, but maybe we need to look at how the days are structured," Meek said. "Some of the most iconic moments in speed skating were at 10,000 meters. I think even suggesting that we should do away with this race is completely asinine."