At the Adler Arena on a 400 meter oval of pearly white ice the best long track speed skaters in the world battle for Gold. In these distance events, you race against the clock and not the person on the ice next to you. It takes patience, focus, self-awareness and incredible talent. Historically, the Dutch honor this event in their home country like no other and historically they dominate these events accordingly. The distance the Netherlands hoped to lock down today was the 5,000 meters and they fielded a strong team led by the World Record holder and reigning Olympic champion Sven Kramer.
In Vancouver in 2010 Kramer experienced both amazing triumph and crushing disappointment. He won Gold early in the Games in the 5,000 meter and then with a huge lead and little ice left between him and another Gold Medal in the 10,000 meter event, a coaching error caused Kramer to skate into the wrong lane and he was disqualified. It was heartbreak on the Olympic stage, but a champion like Kramer didn’t let it affect him long. Since 2010 he has secured his position as the dominant force in long track speed skating and he came to Sochi with his expectations and the entire nation of the Netherlands set on more Gold.
He started the race with split times slightly off the pace of Russian Denis Yuskov who came out blazing hot with lap times in the mid 28s range. By the mid point in the race though, Kramer overtook the Russian through sheer consistency in his lap times. He built and built his lead and posted an Olympic Record and an extremely challenging time for the final three pairs to overcome. None of them did. Kramer cruised to Gold with absolute power and confidence built on the consistency of his lap times. With Dutch royalty in the stands to celebrate him, Kramer watched from the tunnels under the main floor as two of his countrymen, Jan Blokhuijsen and Jorrit Bergsma, took Silver and Bronze respectively. It was a sweep for the Netherlands in their favorite and most prideful sport of Long Track Speed Skating. This made their Olympics and they’ve only just begun.