Men 5000m Podium ©Getty Images
Sven Kramer (NED) has re-written the history books of Speed Skating again. The 31-year-old Dutchman skated a new Olympic record in 6:09.76, to become the first speed skater to win three consecutive Olympic 5000m titles. Ted-Jan Bloemen (CAN) took silver in an epic man-to-man battle with Sverre Lunde Pedersen (NOR), who grabbed the bronze.
Kramer skated an immaculate race. The reigning champion started in the tenth of eleven pairs. He said: “I was a bit lucky that most of the skaters skated in front of me, so they were starting really fast with 28 (seconds). I could continue with the 29s low, and that brought me to this time."
Crowd goes wild for Lee (KOR)
Nils van de Poel (SWE) set the first bar in the men’s 5000m. In the first pair versus Adrian Wielgat (POL) the Swede skated a flat schedule with an acceleration in the final part to conclude with his fastest lap in 29.14, for a total time of 6:19.06. Japan’s Seitaro Ichinohe took over the lead in the third pair with 6:16.55 but Seung-Hoon Lee came out on top skating 6:14.15 fifth and last pair before the ice-cleaning break. To the delight of the home crowd the Korean fought back from behind in an exciting battle with pair-mate Bart Swings (BEL), who set 6:14.57. Lee and Swings eventually ended up 5th and 6th.
Bob de Vries (NED) caused a big upset for the Dutch contingent in the tribune. The 33-year-old farmer, who qualified for PyeongChang 2018 beating Sven Kramer (NED) with 6.15,06 at the Dutch trials, finished in a disappointing 6:22.26. He was sixth after five pairs and dropped to 15th place in the end.
"For sure I am very disappointed,” he said. “This is not the way I wanted my Olympic debut to go after all these years. You have a long journey, you come here, plan to do your best race ever and instead it was one of my worst.
"I wish I knew what went wrong. There was just nothing there today. From the start I was already too slow. We planned to start with 29-second laps but from the start I didn't meet that time.”
Lee was happy with his performance: "The mass start is going to be my main race and I will work with my teammates to get the gold medal. This was a great result for me.
"Competing at home was a big help for me and it was a real honor. The crowd gave me great support."
Lee’s time stood until the 8th pair, when New Zealand’s Peter Michael beat Sochi 2014 Olympic silver medalist Jan Blokhuijsen (NED) to the line in 6:14.07 to edge out Lee by 0.08 seconds. Blokhuijsen started ferociously with two sub-29 laps and he was four seconds ahead of Lee’s time halfway through the race. Whereas Lee accelerated with five sub-30 laps towards the finish-line, Blokhuijsen didn’t manage to maintain his pace and he even saw Michael surpassing him in the final lap. Blokhuijsen clocked 6:14.75 to end up seventh and Michael took fourth place in 6:14.07.
Ted-Jan Bloemen (CAN) and Sverre Lunde Pedersen (NOR) ©Getty Images
Ted-Jan Bloemen (CAN) and Sverre Lunde Pedersen (NOR) also started faster than Lee, but they kept going in the tightest head-to-head battle of the day. The Canadian started out faster, but the Norwegian took over at the 3400m split. Bloemen seemed to be beaten, but fought back with a 29.44 final lap to edge out Pedersen by 0.002 seconds in 6:11.616.
“It was impossible for me to see who was in front”, said Pedersen. “I was waiting for the final call and I was pissed when I saw he was first. I thought I would end up in fourth place, but in the end, I got the bronze, so I was happy.”
Pedersen looks forward to the rest of the Olympics. His next event will be the 1500m on Tuesday. “I will celebrate a little, but not too much because I have to race in two days. Now that the first race is over I can relax and have fun for the rest of the Olympics. My main goal is already achieved.”
Bloemen said he had couldn’t find the flow he’s always looking for in long distance races: “That perfect race when you get into a flow and almost fly to the finish, that doesn’t always happen, and it did not happen today. But I made the most out of it. I’m a little disappointed that I did not have more to give, but overall, I’m really happy and proud to be on the podium.
The Canadian fought for every inch to beat Pedersen: “I was lucky to have such a great pair and to have such a great fight towards the end of the race. I was having trouble in the second part of the race. I thought let’s give everything to at least win the pair. In the last corner I could barely stand on my legs and I took every risk and it worked out.”
Next chapter in the 10000m
Bloemen will be on the ice again for the 10000m on Thursday February 15. “That last little bit of flow and rhythm that I’m looking for in a long-distance race, is something I’m gonna be looking for in the next couple of days” he said.
Kramer is looking forward to that race too. The 10000m gold is the only medal the Dutchman is yet to win after his disqualification at Vancouver 2010 and his silver medal behind Jorrit Bergsma (NED) at Sochi 2014. He likes to write skating history: “It’s nice to have three gold medals in a row. Now the first thing to do is recover from this. I’m looking forward to the next competition. It’s not a secret that’s really important for me. It’s going to be a tough competition, with Ted-Jan, Sverre and Jorrit, who was not here today, but he’s been skating good lately.”