Vancouver / Canada

Dutchman Sven Kramer won the first speed skating gold medal of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in the 5000m Men's event. Long track debutant Seung-Hoon Lee (KOR) took the silver and Ivan Skobrev (RUS) won Olympic bronze at the Richmond Oval on Saturday.

Kramer had to set a fast time as he was the first of the medal favorites to skate in pair 11 out of 14. He was the only skater who dared to use less than 18 seconds for his opening 200m, and after one 28.4 lap, a series of 29s, he had to finish with 30.0, 30.5, 30.6.

He raced in style setting an Olympic record of 6:14.60. The old mark was set on the fast Salt Lake City ice with 6:14.66 by Jochem Uytdehaage (NED) in 2002. The air pressure was high on Saturday, between 1017 and 1019 mBar, and Kramer said later “It was really hot when the crowd came in... I started fast, but I was dying in the end. It was probably my hardest and best race ever.”

Following Kramer in pair 12 was Seung-Hoon Lee, a  21-year-old Korean who had won the Relay at the ISU World Short Track Championships 2008. He had switched to  long track only just this season. To the surprise of the other Dutch favourite, pairmate Bob de Jong, Lee skated away from him from the start, never to be caught up.  Lee showed further strength towards the end of the race. He averaged around 29.8 per lap at the outset but ended faster in the last three laps, with twice 29.5 and 29.3 (which are faster lap times than Kramer’s final laps). With 6:16.95 Lee got into the silver position.  

In the second to last pair, Ivan Skobrev (RUS) was paired with Enrico Fabris from Italy, who won bronze on this distance 4 years ago. They are now training together but Ivan Skobrev was faster on this ice. Still, most of the laps they lost to Kramer and especially Fabris could not keep his race even at the end. Skobrev finished in 6:18.05 which was third position with one pair skating after him.

The final pair saw Olympic Champion Chad Hedrick (USA) with Norwegian Håvard Bøkko. Bøkko kept the suspense with good lap times, but he missed the bronze with less than a second when he finished fourth in 6:18.80.

Once Skobrev realized he had scooped the Olympic bronze he kneeled on the ice and kissed it. “Sven Kramer is the best kid ever. I actually asked him if I could train with him, but he said no. So instead I went to Italy and trained with Fabris which contributed to the results you see today”, he said.

Kramer (age 23) won all but one of the 5000m races he skated since the 2006 Olympics where he got the silver, losing to Chad Hedrick. He was European and World Champion every time from 2007, both allround and in the 5000 and 10,000m. He improved the world record a few times, first in November 2005, the last time was 6:03.32 at the Calgary Olympic Oval. For the Netherlands history has been made, this is the 25 th Winter Olympic gold medal in speed skating.