At age 34 Mika Poutala (FIN) competed at his fourth Olympics Games at PyeongChang 2018, and what an Olympian he proved to be. On February 19, he missed the 500m podium by just 0.2 seconds. The Finnish sprinter had hoped to make amends in the 1000m (February 23). In the 500m Poutala was one of the contenders, but in the 1000m he knew that a medal would be unlikely.
Men 1000m Highlights
Håvard Holmefjord Lorentzen (NOR) had set the fasted 1000m time in 1:07.99. Poutala was paired with Kjeld Nuis (NED) with Poutala in the outer lane. They started fast and at 600m they were both skating on a medal winning schedule, but Poutala felt the energy fading away. The final crossing was nerve-wrecking. Poutala was losing pace quickly and he was not able to cross from the inner to the outer lane ahead of Nuis. The two were level and on course for a collision.
“I thought, just stay on the outside because I’ve got more speed,” Nuis explained. “It was good that he did not cross straight away, because we would have been in trouble then.” At the very end of the straight, Poutala held back to let Nuis enter the final inner corner without troubles. He said: “I knew that he was battling for the win, and I knew that I was not battling for the medals anymore, so it was an easy choice for me. I just want to treat people the way I want people to treat me.”
Mika Poutala (top) and Kjeld Nuis (bottom) during the Men 1000m race.
Nuis won the 1000m title in 1:07.95 and he could not thank his opponent enough: “He saved my life. He let me go first. It was very sporting of him. I’m very grateful.” Poutala ended his race in 16th place with a time of 1:09.58, but he’ll go down in history as a the Olympian that showed true Olympic spirit.
Watch the full event replay below: