Dutch dominance earns speed skaters Newsmaker of Day 15
Netherlands won 23 of 30 available medals
Long before the idea of resurrecting the Olympic Games struck the Baron de Coubertin as a good idea, the legend of Dutch speed skater Hans Brinker, and his equally talented sister, Gretel, captured the imagination of readers around the world.
The Silver Skates, a novel by Mary Mapes Dodge, forever tied the sport to the Netherlands, and surely nothing that happened at Sochi in the XXII Winter Olympic Games has changed that.
This Dutch team earned the Newsmaker nod for Day 15 by wrapping up perhaps the most dominant performance by a squad in a single sport in history – capturing 23 of 30 available long track medals, including both Saturday golds in men’s and women’s pursuit.
That's one fewer medal than all of Team Canada had earned by the end of Saturday.
“We simply are the best team,” said Jan Blokhuisjen, a member of the men’s pursuit, “so it’s no surprise.”
As hockey is to Canadians, speed skating is to the Dutch, a country that was crushed by what it considered a poor showing in Vancouver four years back, winning just seven medals, including three gold.
“In Vancouver things went bad, so tension was high coming into the race,” star Sven Kramer said of the men’s pursuit win. “We knew how to do this, and also how tough this is.”
Kramer, a member of the bronze medal pursuit team in 2010, won an individual gold and silver in these Games and wasn’t close to being the best skater in Orange.
That honour went to Ireen Wust, who had five medals – two gold and three silver.
“It has yet to sink in,” Wust said afterwards. “I still don’t realize what an exceptional performance I have achieved here.”
So dominant were the Orange Crush that they actually swept the podium in four events, including the men’s 500, 5,000 and 10,000 metres , and the women’s 1,500 metres.
They also beat the previous record of 13 total medals, set by East Germany (a team later revealed to be part of a government-sponsored steroid program) in 1988 at Calgary. And the eight Dutch golds in Sochi were two better than the Soviets won in 1960 at Squaw Valley.
The Dutch pour a lot of money, through funding and from corporate sponsors, into a program that already takes advantage of how deeply the sport resides in the country’s history and culture.
“We have so many great skaters back home,” said men’s skater Jorrit Bergsma, to NBC reporter Joe Posnanski. “There is so much competition all around us. This makes us stronger.”
As they showed at Sochi.
The Netherlands had won just one other medal in Sochi by the end of Day 15: a bronze, by Sjinkie Knegt, in the men’s 1,000 metres of short track speed skating.
With files from The Associated Press