Netherlands complete speed skating domination

PATRICK JOHNSTON
Last updated 05:49 23/02/2014

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The flying Dutch men and women wrapped up the Sochi speed skating competition by cruising to both Olympic team pursuit titles on Saturday (local time) amid a simmering selection row that took the gloss of their record-setting performance.

The two golds, both won in Olympic record times, took the Dutch tally to eight out of a possible 12 at the Adler Arena, which included four medal sweeps in the 10 individual events.

It was a show of power like no other at a Winter Olympics.

The Soviet Union won six golds in the sport at the 1960 Games, while South Korea matched the half dozen in short track at the 2006 Turin Games.

But not all the Dutch were happy.

The men's trio of 5000 metres champion Sven Kramer, Jan Blokhuijsen and Koen Verweij were without a backup after 10,000m winner Jorrit Bergsma pulled out 90 minutes before Friday's quarter-finals.

"I don't know, man. Who? Jorrit who? Who is that? He was not here, that's all I know," Blokhuijsen told reporters. "We did it with the three guys that were here and were here for the last two years.

"We sacrificed our individual programmes the last four years to do this. It is a great feeling. It is fantastic to race so fast in the Olympic final."

Kramer, who complained of a sore back after finishing second in the 10,000m, said he had not spoken to Bergsma since being "surprised" to hear of his decision.

Dutch coach Jillert Anema attempted to play down the feud.

"Jorrit explained that he was done with it. I don't know why," Anema told reporters.

"Nobody ever told Jorrit that he could skate but also nobody told him that he couldn't."

Even without Bergsma the Dutch were overwhelming favourites to win the men's pursuit but the Koreans traded the lead early in the race, where the teams start on opposite sides of the oval and the winners are the first team to have all three athletes complete the eight-lap distance.

The electric pace proved to hot for the Koreans as the Dutch went on to win in an Olympic record time of three minutes 37.71 seconds, three seconds ahead of the Asian skaters.

The silver medal was a first for the Korean men at the oval.

They were the top speed skating nation in Vancouver but Lee Sang-hwa's gold in the women's 500m was their only title in Sochi. Poland took bronze by defeating defending champions Canada.

After the victory, Kramer and his team mates watched from inside the oval as the Dutch women won the final in even more emphatic fashion over Poland, the last race on the low altitude ice.

Olympic 3000m champion Ireen Wust collected her fifth medal of the Games, a joint record, as she teamed up with 1500m winner Jorien ter Mors and Marrit Leenstra in completing the six laps in two minutes 58.05 seconds. Poland were 7.5 seconds back in a mismatched final.

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Wust won three silvers in the 1000, 1500 and 5000m and her pursuit gold took her to eight overall, one shy of the record for the sport held by Germany's Claudia Pechstein.

"It's an incredible feeling and I can't really believe it yet," Wust told reporters. "In these Olympics alone I have five medals. It's a little bit crazy."

Home fans were left cheering after Russia proved too good for Japan in the women's bronze medal decider.

- Reuters

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