Having taken his overall medal haul to seven at Sochi 2014, Sven Kramer is now one the three most successful male speed skaters in Olympic history.
Debut in Turin
Kramer made his first appearance at the Olympic Winter Games at Turin 2006 when he was 20. It was a successful debut, as he won silver in the 5,000m. He then teamed up with the Dutch team for the team pursuit, in which the Dutch were hot favourites. But disaster struck in the semi-final against Italy, when Sven fell, taking one of his team-mates with him. The Dutch then saw off Norway to win the bronze and give Kramer a second Olympic medal.
Over the following four years, Kramer went on to become one of the world’s top speed skaters, winning 12 world championship titles and setting several world records. Although competing over all the individual distances, it was in the 5,000m and 10,000m that he truly excelled, while he also established himself as a key figure for the Dutch in the team pursuit.
Joy and heartache in Vancouver
The Heerenveen-born skater was at the height of his powers as he arrived in Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Games, and was strongly fancied to win no less than three titles. He got off to a flying start, seeing off his compatriot, Jochem Uytdehaage in the 5,000m final, and setting a new world record in the process.
He kept the momentum going in the 10,000m final, crossing the line in first place, and was already celebrating a second title when news filtered through that he had been disqualified for choosing the wrong lane just after the midway point of the race. It transpired that Kramer had followed some erroneous instructions from his coach, who had told him to take the inside rather than the outside lane.
A few days later, Sven put the setback behind him to focus on the team pursuit event. The Dutch cruised into the semi-finals, but were then beaten by the USA by just three tenths of a second. It meant that they were once again pitted against the Norwegians for the final spot on the podium, and again came away with the bronze.
Strength from adversity
Kramer had to sit out the 2010-2011 season because of a thigh injury, but he came back even stronger, winning the world all-around championships in 2012 and 2013 to take his tally to a record-breaking six titles, and reasserting his supremacy in the 5,000m winning gold in 2012 and 2013, a feat he matched in the team pursuit.
Magnificent seven in Sochi
Kramer began his Sochi 2014 campaign by completing a successful defence of his 5,000m title, but had to settle for silver in the 10,000m, in which he was out-raced by fellow Dutchman Jorrit Bergsma. He then rounded off a hugely successful Games by hooking up with Jan Blokhuijsen and Koen Verweij to win the team pursuit, as the Dutch saw off South Corea in the final by a margin of over 3 seconds. By the end of Sochi 2014, Kramer’s total Olympic medal count stood at seven, a tally that has only been matched by two other male speed skaters in the history of the Winter Games.