SOCHI, Russia (AP) — The final day of speedskating at the Sochi Olympics was nothing more than a victory lap for the mighty Dutch.
The Netherlands capped its dominant performance with two more gold medals Saturday in team pursuit, bringing the nation’s haul to a staggering eight golds and 23 medals overall.
“What a kick!” Jan Blokhuijsen said.
The Dutch men cruised through the semifinals and finals, pulling away from South Korea to win gold with an Olympic record time of 3 minutes, 37.71 seconds. Blokhuijsen, Sven Kramer and Koen Verweij raised their clasped hands in triumph, taking the country’s first gold ever in pursuit and making up for heavily favored teams that flopped in both 2006 and 2010.
“In Vancouver, things went bad, so tension was high coming into the race,” Kramer said. “We knew how to do this, and also how tough this is.”
Then, in the only imaginable way for this competition to end, the women blew away Poland with their third Olympic record time in three races. Ireen Wust, Jorien ter Mors and Marrit Leenstra were like a runaway train, leading by more than a second and a half after the first half-lap and steadily building the advantage from there, winning by more than 7 seconds in 2:58.05.
Wust became the first athlete at these Winter Games with five medals – two golds and three silvers.
The Netherlands turned in a performance that may never be duplicated, taking nearly twice as many medals at the oval as every other nation combined. While former powerhouses such as Norway and the United States didn’t win even a single medal in Sochi, the team in orange turned this into essentially the Dutch trials.
The eight golds in 12 events broke the previous record of six golds by the Soviet speedskaters at the 1960 Winter Games. The total medals blew away the old mark of 13 by the East Germans at the 1988 Calgary Olympics.
The only consolation for everyone else in team pursuit: There was no way for the Dutch to hoard all the medals, as they did in four individual events.
South Korea seemed more than thrilled with its silver on the men’s side, with Poland rallying to beat Canada for the bronze.
“We knew that the Dutch would be champion, but we still had to fight for a result,” South Korea’s Lee Seung-hoon said.
Poland assured another medal in the women’s race by winning in the semifinals. But there was no stopping the Dutch, so silver was really the best anyone could do. The bronze went to Russia, which defeated Japan in the third-place race, pumping up the home crowd in really the only dramatic moment of the day.
Other than that, it was a Dutch party all the way.
During the last of the victory ceremonies, a most appropriate tune blared from the speakers at Adler Arena, belted out by Tina Turner.
“Simply the best. Better than all the rest.”
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