Olympic Roundup: Dutch win and win and win in speed skating

Feb. 18, 2014 at 2:50 PM
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SOCHI, Russia, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- The dominance of Dutch Olympic speed skating only increased Tuesday and a Norwegian barely avoided a mistake that would have haunted him for a lifetime.

With the weather changing dramatically and affecting all the outdoor events at the Sochi Games, Tina Maze won her second alpine skiing gold, a disqualification affected the women's short-track relay medals for the second straight Olympics and American David Wise leaped and twisted through the snowflakes to earn the inaugural freestyle skiing halfpipe title.

Leading the list of unlikely occurrences were the results turned in by skaters from the Netherlands. Even when one of the heavy favorites from that country is defeated, the person doing the defeating turns out to be a teammate.

From time to time three athletes from the same country win all the medals handed out in a particular event.

But it certainly does not happen four times in the same sport by the same country in the same Olympics. At least it never had until the Dutch were turned loose at the speed skating oval just a few hundred yards from the Black Sea.

The finishing order might have been different than expected, but the overall results were the same Tuesday in the men's 10,000-meter race.

All three medals were won by the Netherlands. It was the fourth medal sweep for the Dutch in a speed skating event at these Games and the sixth victory in the sport's nine events contested to date.

Of the 27 medals awarded in speed skating, 19 have gone to the Dutch. That easily eclipses the record for most medals won in one Winter Olympics by one nation, besting the 14 won in alpine skiing by Austria in 2006.

The 10,000-meter gold was won by Jorrit Bergsma, who set an Olympic record of 12:44.45. Sven Kramer had been the expected winner since he already had the 5,000-meter gold from these Games and also had revenge on his mind from a disqualification that cost him a win in the 10,000-meter race four years ago.

Kramer was well ahead of Bergsma's pace heading into the final quarter of the race, but slowed dramatically and wound up almost five seconds behind. Bob de Jong finished off the medal sweep.

The Netherlands has won only one medal in a sport other than speed skating, that coming in short-track, and the 20 total medals puts that country into a tie with the United States for most in these Olympics. Russia has 19 and Norway has 18. Germany leads in golds with eight, one more than Norway and two more than the Netherlands and the United States.

The Americans picked up two medals as snow fell from dawn until well after dark. Alex Deibold won a bronze in the crash-filled sport of snowboard cross, where six competitors at a time slide down a twisting, hazard-filled course with only three advancing to the next round.

David West then won the first gold medal awarded in freestyle skiing halfpipe, doing his high-flying tricks through the snowflakes.

At the end of his winning routine, West knew he had done something special and pumped his first in the air to celebrate.

West at least waited until his routine was over to celebrate, although it would have been hard for him to do any fist pumping while he was flipping and twisting his way down the halfpipe.

It was easy for Emil Hagle Svendsen of Norway to express his delight a little early as he glided toward the finish line of the 15-kilometer mass start biathlon race. But it was not advisable.

Svendsen opened a small gap over Martin Fourcade of France as they neared the finish line and the Norwegian assumed that gap was large enough to ensure victory. He raised both arms in the air, pointed both index fingers skyward and glided the final few yards toward his gold medal.

Fourcade, however, was not through. He made an attempt to pass Svendsen in the final strides, then thrust his left ski forward in hopes it might reach the finish before Svendsen could get there. The first ski tip across the line determines the winner.

Fourcade, seeking his third gold medal at these Olympics, had the same time as Svendsen -- 42:29.1. A look at the photo, however, showed Svendsen's right ski barely made it to the finish before Fourcade's left one.

Moments later Svendsen could be seen resting his head onto the top of a small fence as he contemplated what he almost let get away.

Maze won gold in the women's giant slalom after she had shared a victory in the downhill and a South Korean team won the women's short-track relay race for the fourth time in five Olympics. South Korea was disqualified from the race four years in Vancouver, costing it the gold medal and handing it to China. This time China was disqualified, depriving that country of a silver.

In the first two runs of the women's bobsled competition, Americans Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams turned in the fastest combined time and will try for the gold medal on Wednesday. Williams, silver medalist in the 100-meter dash at the Athens Olympics, is trying to become the fifth person to win a medal in both the Winter and Summer Games.

The quarterfinals were also set in the men's hockey tournament with Russia blanking Norway 4-0, Slovenia posting a 4-0 decision over Austria, Latvia surprising Switzerland 3-1 and the Czech Republic holding off Slovakia 5-3. In the semifinals on Wednesday it will be Russia vs. Finland, Latvia vs. Canada, Slovenia vs. Sweden and the Czech Republic vs. the United States.

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