Norway edge hosts to win men’s team pursuit gold
Norway continued their successful PyeongChang 2018 at the Gangneung Oval on Wednesday 21 February, with their speed skaters cruising to the men’s team pursuit gold. The Norwegians defeated the Republic of Korea’s trio in the final after deposing of defending champions and world record holders the Netherlands in the semis.
The Norwegian trio of Havard Bokko, Simen Spieler Nilsen and Sverre Lunde Pedersen were fast out of the blocks in the final, quickly moving into a 0.49-second lead and building on it. Though the ROK team of Lee Seung-hoon, Chung Jae-won and Kim Min-seok were urged on by a passionate home crowd and reeled the Norwegians in to take the lead on the fourth lap, they quickly fell behind again and trailed by 0.92 seconds with two laps remaining.
Skating more smoothly than their opponents, who had gone fastest in the previous day's quarter-finals, the Norwegians stretched their advantage in the closing stages and stopped the clock in a time of 3:37.32 to win by 1.2 seconds. The Netherlands (Patrick Roest, Sven Kramer and Jan Blokhuijsen) had little trouble in beating surprise semi-finalists New Zealand in the Final B to claim the bronze.
Norway's victory justified their decision to switch from their traditional red suits to blue at the start of what has been a very successful season for them. Their two speed skating golds at PyeongChang 2018 – the first of them won by Havard Lorentzen in the 500m on 19 February – are their first in Olympic speed skating in 20 years. The team pursuit title also took the country's tally of PyeongChang 2018 golds to 13, one shy of the all-time single Olympic Winter Games record set by Canada at Vancouver 2010.
"We have one strategy – to skate as fast as we can from start to finish," said Norway's Bokko, reflecting on their victory. "We knew it was going to be a hard fight against Republic of Korea. It was a nice feeling when the crowd went quieter at the end. We knew we were ahead. It was always tight and we were strong and able to put out some fast laps to finish off with. ROK were the favourites to win the gold here, but we knew we also had a chance if everything went perfectly."
"We had a good plan for both races," commented Pedersen. "The first goal was the semi-final against the Netherlands. We knew we were going to attack from the start and skate fast, flat laps the whole way. We made some adjustments after the quarter-final, and we used the same tactics in the final."
ROK skater Kim, a double gold medallist at the Winter Youth Olympic Games Lillehammer 2016, said: "I'm happy and I'm also really proud of our teamwork. To do well at a young age just means that when I get older, I need to work harder.
Team-mate Chung, who won a gold, silver and bronze at Lillehammer 2016, added: "It's my first Olympics, and I'm really proud of this medal. My teammates helped me to fix my mistakes, which I'm really thankful for. It's all good experience and I want to carry on by doing a good job in Beijing in 2022 as well."
In collecting silver, Lee, the third member of the ROK triumvirate, became the first Asian male speed skater to win medals at three consecutive Olympic Winter Games.