Vancouver / Canada

The Olympic Team Pursuit is a young event that was first held at the 2006 Olympics. Teams of 8 different countries, each of three skaters, compete against each other. The time of the third skater across the line counts. The team who wins its pair earned a place in the next race. So there are quarterfinals, semifinals and finals. The competition is spread over two consecutive days, with today the decisive finals.

The Canadian ladies, who hold the Olympic and world record, lost their heats against the USA by 0.04 second, thinking that they were far ahead, which was the main upset on the first day. The great surprise in the men’s field was, that the Dutch with Sven Kramer had a bad semi final and lost to the US team and could only race for bronze. The Canadian men fulfilled the hopes of the audience and skated an Olympic record in the heats with 3:42.38 and again in the semi finals with 3:42.22.

In the men’s finals, the Dutch men beat Norway to the bronze, in a new Olympic record time of 3:39.95. With 3:40.51, the Norwegians had a good time as well. The A-final was very close between Canada and the USA. The Canadians went off the line very quickly, but had trouble to keep their pace towards the end. America was never more than 0.6 second behind, but the gap could never be completely closed. The Canadians thus won the gold in 3:41.37, faster than they had been the day before, but they had lost the Olympic record to the Dutch who did not feel quite happy with the fact that it brought them bronze as gold was what they had come for.

In the ladies’ races, the German team had a hard semifinal, with the US team. The Germans were leading with a narrow margin, when Anni Friesinger-Postma had problems in the final turn and couldn’t follow the rest of the team. In an ultimate effort, she fell over the finish line, expecting to have lost, but the Americans didn’t have a perfect finish either, and for Germany it was enough to reach the final. Friesinger, still down, after hitting the ice with her fist in frustration, lift her arm for joy as soon as she realized that it had been enough after all. Japan beat Poland for a place in the finals, be it only with 0.2 second.

In the B-final between Poland and the USA, the US team was leading but put in their fourth skater, expecting that this team could win a medal. The Polish skaters have not achieved anything big as individuals, but they make an excellent team with three skaters who can work together very well, a real unity. In the end, Catherine Raney-Norman could not keep the pace of the rest of the US team and that is where Poland won the race for bronze.

In the A-final, Japan faced Germany and again it was an excitingly close race. Most of the time, after a bad start for the German team, Japan was leading but in the final laps Germany was faster. The difference between gold and silver was 0.02; Germany had taken gold in a final fast lap and finished in 3:02.82, Japan had the silver in 3:02.84. The Canadians were the fastest, skating 3:01.42 in the battle for fifth place.