Flying dentist sprints to success

There were four gold medals up for grabs in the men’s speed skating, and three of them went to Ard Schenk of the Netherlands. The one he failed to win was the sprint event, the 500m. It was expected to be a battle between the 1971 world sprint champion Erhard Keller of East Germany, and the Soviet skater Valery Muratov, who had won the same title the year before.

However, the early pace was set Sweden's Hasse Börjes, who broke the Olympic record racing in the first pair. Keller appeared just two pairs later, knowing that he would have to produce something rather special.

That was nothing new for the East German. He had won gold four years earlier in Grenoble, in the face of similar pressure. His winning time then had been 40.3 seconds, but since then he had gone progressively faster and had won a succession of titles.

Known as “The Flying Dentist” as he had been a dentistry student at the time of the 1968 Games, Keller knew he had what it took to defend his title, however he did so by the finest of margins. He crossed the line for a time of 39.44 seconds to edge into the lead. The only man who could now beat him was Muratov, who ended up just under half a second short, and had to settle for bronze. Keller turned professional shortly after the Games, but that didn’t stop him completing his studies to become a qualified dentist. In 1974 he won the European and world titles, and then retired from competition to focus on teeth!