New Olympic record as Kramer defends 5,000m crown and tops all-Dutch podium
Sven Kramer completed a successful defence of his 5,000m speed skating crown, shaving nearly four seconds off his own Olympic record in the process.
With King Willem-Alexander of Netherlands among those watching on at the Adler Arena, Kramer’s fellow Dutchmen Jan Blokhuijsen (6:15.71) and Jorrit Bergsma (6:16.66) claimed silver and bronze respectively, to complete an impressive 1-2-3 on what was the 100th speed skating podium in Olympic history.
In a day of landmarks on the ice, Kramer becomes only the second male speed skater in history to win back-to-back 5,000m titles, emulating the achievement of Sweden’s Tomas Gustafson in 1984 and 1988. It was a remarkable achievement for the Dutchman, who has dominated the 5,000m in recent times, winning 15 consecutive events since 2012.
Kramer, who made his Olympic debut in the 5,000m at Turin 2006, where he won silver, before claiming gold four years later, got off to a slow start in Sochi.
With six laps to go it appeared as if his relaxed approach could cost him, as he found himself 1.77 seconds off the pace. But he clearly had a game plan and in the following three laps his power and technique came into their own, as he edged 1.93 seconds into the lead.
Incredibly, at the bell, he had extended that lead to almost seven seconds. His final time of 6:10.76 was a new Olympic record, and put him 4.95 seconds clear of his compatriot Blokhuijsen in the final standings.
Local favourite Denis Yuskov, who won the men's 1,500m at the 2013 World Single Distance Championships, held on the same track last year, looked as if he might provide the host nation with its first medal of Sochi 2014.
The Russian recorded the fastest time of the day before the three Dutchmen stepped onto the ice to complete a momentous clean sweep, an achievement only managed once before in Olympic history in the 5,000m – by the Norwegians in 1964.
After the win, Kramer, 27, admitted that the pressure of defending his Olympic crown was intense.
“The pressure was sky-high," said the Dutchman. "The last 48 hours have been crazy, really tough. So I'm really satisfied about today.”
Speaking about the rivalry within the Dutch camp, he said: “In the Netherlands camp in Holland we have separate teams and then we all come into the national team and race under the national flag. At the end of the Olympics we are one big family but now we are competing against each other.”
Silver medallist Blokhuijsen added: “I'm excited, but I'm also a little bit disappointed. I could have raced faster, but I could not really move the way I wanted. It must have been the Olympic pressure, but I couldn't keep going and push until the end.”
Kramer will be in contention for two more golds in Sochi, including the team pursuit where the Dutch will now certainly be the team to beat.