Kramer leads Dutch 1-2-3 in an Olympic record
Imperious Sven Kramer smashed the opposition and the Olympic record to successfully defend his 5000 metres title on Saturday (local time) as the Dutch marked the start of the Sochi Games speedskating competition with a rare clean sweep of the medals.
Jan Blokhuijsen claimed silver, almost five seconds back, and Jorrit Bergsma the bronze to help the much lauded Dutch emulate the medal sweep of the men's 10,000m at the 1998 Nagano Games.
The medal ceremony, though, was the closest the two Dutch challengers got to Kramer, who clocked six minutes, 10.76 seconds to shave almost four seconds off the record he set en route to winning the title at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
"For sure I was the only guy who could lose this today," the grinning 27-year-old told reporters at the Adler Arena after collecting his second Olympic gold medal.
"I just lose two or three races in the last few years but that brought a lot of pressure for today.
"I didn't expect it would come as easy as that, I think it was one of my best races ever."
Kramer, buoyed by text messages of support from compatriot and soccer player Arjen Robben and watched by Dutch King Willem-Alexander, was roared on by his fans who did their best to make enough noise to cover for the number of empty seats at the 8000 capacity stadium.
The Russian fans who did turn out found their voices in the seventh of 13 heats, as Denis Yuskov completed the 12-and-a-half laps in six minutes, 19.51 seconds to jump to the top of the timesheets.
Yuskov's lap times were strong over the first half of his heat and Kramer, benefiting from the ice being prepared just before his skate, trailed the Russian before moving ahead with four laps remaining of the 10th heat.
With gritted teeth he powered to the finish to set a mark that proved unbeatable, clenching his fists upon crossing the finish line.
'BLEW MYSELF UP'
Bergsma was close in a fast 11th heat, where he benefited from a strong skate by Norway's Sverre Lunde Pedersen as the two pushed Kramer's time, before tiring over the finishing laps.
"I felt really good this week and I really felt I could go for gold and I really skated for gold but I really blew myself up in the race and it wasn't a good race," Bergsma bemoaned after finishing 5.9 seconds back.
"I skated a bad race and feel like I didn't show myself today and that is kind of the disappointment. Nice that it is still bronze, I should be happy but its mixed feelings now."
Blokhuijsen, skating in the penultimate heat, felt the pressure of expectation affected his performance as he too failed to match Kramer's barnstorming finish.
"I think I didn't skate a perfect race, maybe it was the Olympic tension. I didn't skate free. . I burned too much energy cramping," he said.
Vancouver 10,000m champion Lee Seung-hoon of South Korea was also expected to challenge but he struggled in the final heat and finished well down the field.
That allowed Kramer to celebrate with girlfriend Naomi van As - also a double gold medallist having been part of the victorious Dutch hockey teams at the 2008 and 2012 Summer Games.
Kramer can go one better than Van As when he takes part in the 10,000m on February 18, an event he thought he won four years ago only to be told as he celebrated victory that he had been disqualified for a lane change mix-up, caused by wrong advice from his coach.