Kramer makes history, Norway end wait and Lee warms local hearts in men’s speed skating

The men’s speed skating events at PyeongChang 2018 saw Sven Kramer of the Netherlands become the most decorated speed skater in Olympic history, winning a third consecutive 5,000m gold and a team pursuit bronze to take his medal collection to nine.

Picture by 2018 Getty Images

Other victors at the Gangneung Oval included Kramer’s compatriot Kjeld Nuis, Norway’s Havard Lorentzen, Canada’s Ted-Jan Bloemen, and the Republic of Korea’s Lee Seung-hoon - who won the first Olympic mass start event. 

Hat-trick for Kramer

The speed skating programme got underway in style, as the irrepressible Kramer posted an Olympic record of six minutes, 09.76 seconds to win the men’s 5,000m title for an unprecedented third time. Skating in the penultimate pair with Japan’s Seitaro Ichinohe, the irrepressible Kramer led at every split to better Bloemen’s time of six minutes, 11.616 seconds and relegate the Canadian to silver. Norway’s Sverre Lunde Pedersen completed the podium.

“It’s great to beat the Olympic record,” said Kramer. “I’ve won a lot and lost a lot and this victory means so much to me.”

The winner of 19 world single distance titles and nine world allround golds, Kramer became the first speed skater in Olympic history to win the same event three times. And in landing his eighth Winter Games medal, the Dutchman surpassed Olympic speed skating pioneers Clas Thunberg of Finland and Ivar Ballangrud of Norway, who each won seven medals in the 1920s and 30s.

Nuis leads Dutch 1500m one-two

The men’s 1,500m gold went to Nuis of the Netherlands, the first reigning world champion in the distance to claim the Olympic title. Nuis’ compatriot Patrick Roest won silver, with the Republic of Korea’s Kim Min-seok taking the bronze.

Getty Images

Roest set the early pace with a time of one minute, 44.86 seconds, holding the lead until Nuis, skating in the 13th pair, bettered it by 0.85 seconds. Kim, in the 15th pair, was a further 0.07 seconds off the pace

“I’m really, really happy,” said said Nuis. “I said after my race that it was a good time. But these are the Olympics and you can never tell.” 

Bloemen halts Dutch gold rush 

Canada’s Bloemen skated a new Olympic record of 12 minutes, 39.77 seconds to win the 10,000m title by a margin of 2.21 seconds from defending champion Jorrit Bergsma of the Netherlands, halting the Dutch team’s run of speed skating golds. Nicola Tumolero of Italy finished over 14 seconds behind Bloemen to claim the bronze. A silver medallist at Sochi 2014, Kramer could finish no higher than sixth, more than 21 seconds behind the winner.

Skating in the fourth pair, Bergsma broke his own Olympic record to set a target for the 31-year-old Dutch-born Bloemen, who has been skating for Canada since 2014. The current world record holder, Bloemen had no difficulty in bettering Bergsma’s time and adding a gold to his 5,000m silver.

“It’s been very emotional,” said the new Olympic champion. “It’s the biggest stage I’ve ever been on. It doesn’t get any better than winning here.” 

Lorentzen ends 70-year wait for Norway

Lorentzen posted a new Olympic record of 34.41 seconds to seal Norway’s first Olympic 500m gold since Finn Helgesen’s victory at St Moritz 1948. It was also the country’s first Olympic men’s speed skating title since Adne Sondral’s 1,500m triumph at Nagano 1998. The Republic of Korea’s Cha Min-kyu finished a hundredth of a second behind the Norwegian to take the silver, with Gao Tingyu of China claiming the bronze.

The World Cup leader heading into PyeongChang 2018, Lorentzen trimmed a hundredth off the previous Winter Games best, set by the USA’s Casey Fitzrandolph at Salt Lake City 2002.

Getty Images

“It’s the best race I’ve ever done,” said Lorentzen. “It’s time for Norway to step up onto the top of the podium again. It feels so good to do that today.”

Cha had set the earlier pace, stopping the clock in 34.42 seconds, itself an Olympic record until Lorentzen’s flying run. “The 9.6 seconds start was my best for 100 metres and I think that was the key to a fast run,” said the home skater. “I wasn’t disappointed [at finishing second] because my goal was only to get onto the podium.”

Gao was equally pleased with his bronze, having only managed one podium finish in the World Cup prior to PyeongChang 2018. For the Dutch skaters, however, there was only disappointment, following their clean sweep in the distance at Sochi 2014. Mulder’s seventh place was the best they could manage.

Norwegian surprise in team pursuit

In a thrilling team pursuit final, Norway (Havard Bokko, Simen Spieler Nilsen, Pedersen and Sindre Henriksen) pulled clear of the Republic of Korea (Chung Jae-won, Kim Min-seok, Lee Seung-hoon and Joo Hyong-Jun) with two laps remaining to win gold in a time of three minutes, 37.32 seconds. The Netherlands (Jan Blockhuijsen, Kramer, Roest and Koen Verweij) collected bronze, giving Kramer a ninth Winter Games medal. 

Getty Images

“We skated the best pursuit of our lives.” said Bokko. “We’ve been training together every day since May 2017 (and) we knew we had a chance of a medal”

The Netherlands led the B Final from start to finish, cruising to victory against New Zealand and clocking a time of three minutes, 38.40 seconds, faster than the Republic of Korea managed in the A Final. 

Nuis doubles up

Ten days after his 1,500m victory, Nuis returned to the top of the podium in the 1,000m, beating 500m champion Lorentzen by four hundredths of a second. The Republic of Korea’s Kim Tae-yun claimed the bronze.

Getty Images

Going out in the final pair with Finland’s Mika Poutala, Nuis shook off a false start to stop the clock in one minute, 7.95 seconds and collect his second gold of PyeongChang 2018, having also won both events when the Gangneung Oval hosted the 2017 World Single Distance Speed Skating Championships. 

“The first gold was a victory and this one is a relief,” said Nuis, the third man to win the 1,000m/1,500m double after the USA’s Eric Heiden at Lake Placid 1980 and Canada’s Gaetan Boucher at Sarajevo 1984. “I was psyched to get this one.”

Mass appeal for local hero Lee

The Republic of Korea’s Lee held off Belgium’s Bart Swings and Verweij of the Netherlands to become the first men’s mass start champion in Olympic history, to the delight of the packed crowd at the Gangneung Oval. 

The 2016 world champion in the event and the winner of three of the last four World Cup races held before PyeongChang 2018, Lee was aided by team-mate Chung Jae-won, who set the tempo in the early stages of the race before Kramer broke clear with two laps remaining to set up the sprint for fellow Dutchman Verweij. 

Lee, Swings and Verweij then pulled away as the battle for gold heated up. The home skater prevailed, with Swings collecting silver to give his country its only medal of PyeongChang 2018, while Verweij’s bronze took the Netherlands’ speed skating tally to 16. 

Lee’s gold took his own Olympic medal total to five, making him one of his country’s three most decorated Winter Olympians. A gold medallist in the 10,000m at Vancouver 2010, he also has three silvers (team pursuit at PyeongChang 2018 and Sochi 2014, and 5,000m at Vancouver 2010). 

“I’m very happy to have won the inaugural Olympic mass start in front of my own people and I’m honoured to receive all the praise that has come with this medal,” said Lee. “Winning this gold is a dream come true.”