Mark Tuitert became the first Dutchman after Ard Schenk in 1972 to win Olympic Gold in the 1500m, the blue ribbon race of speed skating. Shani Davis (USA) won silver after gold in the 1000m. Davis also got a silver medal in the 2006 Olympic Winter Games. Behind him, Håvard Bøkko (NOR) won bronze. All three skaters were below the former track record set by Davis when he became world champion in 2009. The gap Tuitert managed to make was a surprise.
Sven Kramer (NED) was the first of the great names to skate. He started 24.07, a 26.3 lap, a 27.9 and then a 29.0 fastest last lap brought him to 1:47.40. But it was not nearly enough. His compatriot Simon Kuipers opened much faster, 23.49 and kept his lead with laps of 26.2, 27.8 and 29.1. His time of 1:46.76 took everything he had.
double medalist Tae-Bum Mo (KOR) opened in 23.75, and could continue with 26.2, 27.1 and 29.4 to take over the lead with 1:46.47.
In pair 16 of 19, Denny Morrison (CAN) was paired with Ivan Skobrev (RUS). Morrsion went off fast, with 23.86 and 26.0 followed by 27.3. Skobrev was 1.3 second behind him at that point, but overtook him in the end with a fabulous 27.7 last lap and posted 1:46.42, the new leading time. Morrison was the best Canadian with 1:46.93.
In pair 17 we saw Håvard Bøkko and Mark Tuitert. The Dutchman opened in 23.52, the only one who had been faster was his training mate Simon Kuipers. Tuitert seemed to follow the same plan, but did it faster. His first lap was 25.8, Bøkko had 26.1. Then Tuitert managed 27.1, only Mo had managed that here. The 27.3 of Bøkko was also strong. Bøkko had the better last lap, but his 28.6 didn’t help him to pass Tuitert, who with 29.0 finished in a new track record time of 1:45.57. Bøkko had 1:46.13, still under the track record skated last year.
Stefan Groothuis raced in pair 18 with Chad Hedrick, who had high hopes for a medal. But they both didn’t entirely deliver. Hedrick finished in 1:46.69, just ahead of Kuipers; Groothuis had 1:48.03. The time of Hedrick was in the end good for 6th place.
Then world champion Shani Davis, the main favourite, skated with Lucas Makowsky (CAN). Makowsky wasn’t so dangerous, 1:48.61 was his time. All eyes were on Davis, who started 23.70, a lap of 25.8 like Tuitert’s followed. Then 27.3, where he lost a bit. This time, the last lap was too much for him. 29.2, and that brought him only just ahead of Bøkko with 1:46.10.
Bøkko: “Silver or bronze makes not really a big difference to me. As long as it is heavy and around my neck. I lost my coach 2 or 3 months ago and 90% of the Norwegians had not expected me to go fast here. It was fun to show that I could skate fast.”
Davis; “I learned not to be surprised. Last Olympics, Fabris came out of nowhere after me and Chad, and now Tuitert and I have silver again. When I saw Mark’s time, 0.6 second faster than my previous record, I said “Man, that’s crazy fast!” I put my heart into that race but wasn’t strong enough. Of course it hurt, because the 1500m is my favourite race since I was a junior. I still want to win this some day, so a second silver medal keeps me in the sport. Mark is the king. He deserves it.”
Tuitert: “This is the king’s race, the race everyone wants to win. It was the biggest dream from a young age. I wanted so bad to be on the podium. Every night I watched the Medal Ceremonies from my balcony in the Village and I really wanted to stand there. I skated with my all. When mind and body and everything came together, I could beat a great champion.”