Dutch close in on more Olympic speed skating medals

Feb. 21, 2014 at 10:47 AM
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SOCHI, Russia, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- The Netherlands moved into position for two more speed skating medals Friday in the men's and women's Olympic individual pursuit races.

Dutch speed skaters have won 21 medals at the Olympics, seven more than any nation had ever won in any sport at any single Winter Games.

That total will grow to at least 22 and likely to 23 when the finals of the individual pursuit competitions are held on Saturday.

The men's team of Jan Blokhuijsen, Sven Kramer and Koen Verweij reached the gold medal race by knocking off France in the quarterfinals and Poland in the semifinals.

Each participating country has a three-person team and the two squads in each round of competition line up on opposite sides of the oval. The men skate 16 laps and the women contest their race over 12 laps. If one team catches the other the race is over. If neither team is able to overtake the opposition, and that rarely happens at this level, the team with the fastest time wins.

In the semifinals, the Dutch posted a time of 3:40.79 to defeat Poland. South Korea will meet the Netherlands in the final after downing Canada in the semis.

Only the quarterfinals were held in the women's event Friday and the Dutch team of Jorien ter Mors, Lotte van Beek and Irene Wust overwhelmed the United States with an Olympic record time of 2:58.61.

The Netherlands will meet Japan in the semifinals and Russia will take on Poland.

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