Not once but twice, the Olympic record was broken, as Canada’s Ted-Jan Bloeman upset the odds to win gold in the men’s 10,000m speed skating at the Gangnueng Oval on 15 February.
Billed as a showdown between Dutch rivals – Sven Kramer, the reigning world champion, and reigning Olympic champion Jorrit Bergsma – the event certainly lived up to its billing as a high-quality thriller. However, Bloemen, already a silver medallist in the 5,000m, rewrote the script and stole the show in spectacular style.
Bergsma upped the excitement by smashing his own Olympic record, set four years earlier at Sochi 2014, as he clocked 12.41.98 to establish a comfortable lead with two heats left.
However, the Dutchman’s new record lasted less than 15 minutes. Ramping up the tension further, Bloemen – the current world record holder over the distance – lowered the Olympic benchmark yet again, with a time of 12.39.11 in the penultimate heat.
Enter Sven Kramer
However, with red-hot favourite Kramer still to race in the final heat, Bloemen’s place at the top of the leaderboard continued to look vulnerable.Getty Images
With four golds, two silvers, and two bronzes, Sven Kramer entered the event as the most decorated male speed skater in Olympic history, buoyed by his latest triumph in the 5,000m earlier in the week… but the 10,000m remained the one title that had eluded his grasp.
The last two editions of the Games had seen him denied gold; at Sochi 2014 he had to settle for silver, and he was clearly determined to fill in the gap in his list of honours. However, this time around, paired with Germany’s Patrick Becker in the final heat, there was to be no medal of any colour. As Kramer tired in the final laps, it became increasingly clear that Bloemen’s record time was not going to be bettered. Bergsma ensured there was a familiar Dutch presence on the podium as he held onto second place, while Italy’s Nicola Tumolero took the bronze.
Race of a lifetime
“It's going to take a while for all this to sink in. It's hard to say what's going through my mind. It's been very emotional,” said the new 10,000m champion. “It's the biggest stage I've ever been on and to win here is the highest you can get.
And Bloemen hailed the win over the two Dutch favourites as the biggest of his career: “It was a tough race. I had good rhythm and momentum, I just had to keep it going. This is the biggest race of my life and I had to keep pushing to the finish line and I did so.”
Bergsma, who saw first his Olympic record, and then his title, taken by Bloemen, admitted it would take him a while to see the silver lining on a day when he had to settle for second best.
“I'm a little disappointed. I would really like to have won it again,” he admitted. “But for today, this was excellent for me.
“Probably I'm going to be proud of [the silver medal] eventually, but for now I really would have liked to have won the gold.”