Sven Kramer has set a new Olympic record as he led a Dutch sweep of the podium for the men’s 5,000-meter speedskating race. In so doing, he also successfully defended his title from the Vancouver Games.
Kramer raced around the oval at Sochi with extremely consistent laps on Saturday, all falling within a range of eight tenths of a second, to win the gold medal with a time of 6 minutes, 10.76 seconds. This was almost four seconds faster than the previous Olympic record, which the 27-year-old Kramer (pictured above middle) had set on his way to winning gold at the Vancouver Winter Olympics four years ago.
Kramer's result was also nearly five seconds better than that of fellow countryman Jan Blokhuijsen (above left), who took the silver medal. Jorrit Bergsma (right) captured bronze to complete the Dutch sweep of the podium, with the country's king, queen and prime minister among the spectators in the stadlum.
"What can you say? We could never have hoped for such a great result," Dutch King Willem-Alexander said afterwards. "That Sven was able to deliver despite such pressure, it leaves me speechless. What can you say, such a great Olympic record."
Kramer travelled to Sochi determined to take the two longest men's speedskating events after disappointments at past Olympics. In the 10,000 in Vancouver, he was disqualified after switching into the wrong lane on the instructions of his coach. Four years earlier in Turin, he clipped a lane marker in the team pursuit, knocking out the heavily favored Dutch squad.
Earlier in the day, the first medals were awarded, with US snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg claiming gold in slopestyle snowboarding, and Norway's Marit Bjoergen taking her country's first gold medal in the 15-kilometer cross-country skiathlon.
pfd/tj (Reuters, AP)