The sign read: "Go Sven Go."
The sign read: “Go Sven Go.”
Sven Kramer went, all right. Really fast. And when he was finished, the Dutchman had set an Olympic record.
Kramer, the favorite to win the men’s 5,000-meter race, did more than meet expectations Saturday afternoon. On the slow ice at the Richmond Oval, Kramer took the gold medal with a time of 6:14.60 and cut six-hundredths of a second off the previous record.
This feat may have been more impressive than the record he beat. Jochem Uytdehaage, who like Kramer is from the Netherlands, set the old mark eight years ago at altitude in Salt Lake City. Skating at sea level, skating on ice that United States competitor Chad Hedrick called “sticky,” Kramer turned in an overwhelming performance.
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Seung-Hoon Lee of South Korea took the silver with a time of 6:16.95. Russia’s Ivan Skobrev claimed the bronze in 6:18.05.
As for the U.S.? Eh, well, the best you can say is at least they’re getting along.
Hedrick, who won this event four years ago, finished in 11th place. His time (6:27.07) was about 13 seconds slower than his gold-medal performance in Turin, Italy. Shani Davis finished 12th. Trevor Marsicano came in 14th.
But the Americans didn’t seem too disappointed. Hedrick, competing in his final Games, has more of a happy-to-be-here attitude these days, and he thinks his chances to win a medal are better at 1,500 meters this time. Davis is a middle-distance star who merely competes in this event. And Marsicano was a long shot.
After the race, both Hedrick and Davis, who feuded infamously four years ago, reiterated that they’re fine now. And then they marveled at the 23-year-old Kramer.
Davis, who was paired with Kramer, wound up eating his ice shavings the entire race.
“I wrote down in my journal that I thought 6:14 would win,” Davis said. “I’m kind of a genius in that case. I know my sport well. Sven was great. He put all his cards on the table, and he won.”
Hedrick said he lost his focus in the middle of the race, lost speed and couldn’t recover. He said the ice felt sticky to him, so he changed his technique. Hedrick, formerly an accomplished in-line skater, went back to his roots instead of gliding. Clearly, it didn’t work on this day.
“I felt like I was fighting the whole time,” Hedrick said. “I felt so sticky, so I tried to skate more like an in-line skater. The glide was not there.”
He, too, left Saturday’s event impressed with Kramer. The Dutch skater finished behind Hedrick and took the silver four years ago as a 19-year-old, but this time, there was no comparing the two.
Said Hedrick: “The guy’s an animal right now.”