SOCHI, Russia (AP) The Netherlands will be making at least one more trip to the speedskating medal podium.
The dominant Dutch sealed their 22nd speedskating medal of the Sochi Olympics with two routs in men’s team pursuit Friday.
Sven Kramer, Jan Blokhuijsen and Koen Verweij zipped past France by a whopping 8.70 seconds in the quarterfinals, then went even faster in the semifinals. Nearly catching Poland and just missing an Olympic record, the Dutch won by a staggering 11.30.
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They will face South Korea in Saturday’s final, assured of at least a silver.
Unless the Dutch make a silly mistake – which has happened before – it seems no one can deny them gold.
The Dutch women have a little more work to do, since the semifinals and final are both on Saturday. But Ireen Wust, Lotte van Beek and Jorien ter Mors gave every indication that they’ll make it 23 medals for the orange wave, setting an Olympic record of 2 minutes, 58.61 seconds while comfortably beating the United States by 3.60 in the quarterfinals.
Since pursuit was introduced at the 2006 Olympics, the Dutch have struggled to translate their dominance in individual races into the team event.
The men were heavy favorites at the last two games, but Kramer fell after stepping on a lane marker in Turin, and a mistake in tactics at Vancouver left one skater behind and cost the Netherland another shot at gold. Both times, they settled for bronze.
The women lost their quarterfinal pairing to eventual gold medalist Germany in both 2006 and 2010, forcing them to settle for fifth- and sixth-place finishes.
Two-time defending champion Germany didn’t even quality for the women’s team pursuit in Sochi, and there appears to be no one who can halt the Dutch.
The only consolation for the other countries at Adler Arena – the Netherlands can win only one medal in each of the team pursuits.
So at least there will be some other medals to go around.
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