Blunder costs speedskater gold

Lapse in concentration by coach costs Sven Kramer Olympic 10,000 metre title.

It’s going to be a long plane ride home for Kramer and coach Gerard Kemkers [GALLO/GETTY]

Day 12 at the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games will not be a day that Sven Kramer’s coach will remember fondly, after the biggest blunder of his coaching career cost the speedskater a second Olympic title.

The Dutch world champion was disqualified despite posting the fastest time in the 10,000 metres after failing to switch lanes properly, an elementary error that was unprecedented for a skater of his stature at the Olympics.

The world record-holder and favourite celebrated victory but within seconds of crossing the line he threw his glasses down and kicked the track in fury and frustration after learning he had been disqualified for crossing into the wrong lane – with the fault apparently lying with his coach.

The error handed South Korea’s Lee Seung-hoon the most unexpected gold medal of the Games.

Kramer, the world champion and world record holder, was on course to add the 10,000 title to his victory in the 5,000.

But the gold medal was awarded instead to Lee in an Olympic-record time of 12:58.55.

Russia’s Ivan Skobrev picked up silver and bronze to defending champion Bob de Jong, Kramer’s teammate on the Netherlands team.

Blame game

Kramer blamed his coach for wrongly pointing him down the inside lane on the 17th of 25 laps, but said: “At the end of the day, it is my responsibility. I am the skater on the ice, I have to do it.”

On the Richmond Olympic oval, Kramer raised his arms in triumph after crossing the line, moments before Dutch coach Gerard Kemkers skated over to tell him of the disqualification. Kramer reacted with disbelief, kicking the ice.

“It is pretty hard now,” Kramer said.

“I was on my way to make the right decision and right before the corner I changed my decision because of the advice from the (coach).”

Kemkers took the blame, saying “the responsibility is all mine.”

“It all happened in a split second. It is a disastrous error. This is my absolute worst moment,” said Kemkers, adding that when the realisation hit him: “I knew my world had just collapsed on me.”

South Korea’s Lee said he was as amazed as anyone about Kramer’s breach of one of the most basic rules of long-track speedskating, which requires competitors to switch lanes each time they go down the back stretch to even up the distance they cover.

Janka becomes the first Swiss man to take the giant slalom title since 1984 [GALLO/GETTY]

Swiss gold

As snow and rain swept Olympic venues, Carlo Janka became the first Swiss man to win the Olympic giant slalom gold since 1984 as neighbours Austria, who had dominated the discipline at the last three Olympics, missed out on the podium altogether.

Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud took silver and compatriot Aksel Lund Svindal bagged his third medal of the Games by finishing third. American Bode Miller’s hopes of a fourth medal in four races ended in disappointment when he skied out in the first run.

Russia had earlier secured the first gold medal of Day 12, with Olga Zaitseva finishing off victory in the women’s biathlon relay in 1 hour, 9 minutes, 36.3 seconds to beat France and Germany.

Canada won their sixth gold, joining Norway and Switzerland only one behind the competition-leading United States and Germany, when Ashleigh McIvor defeated Norwegian Hedda Berntsen in the final of the Olympic debut of women’s skicross, held in heavy snow.

Austria successfully defended their title in the Nordic combined team relay, overtaking the United States in the last straight of the cross-country section after placing third in the ski-jumping portion of the event.

In women’s figure skating, Kim Yu-na of South Korea had fans and judges swooning in the short program, scoring 78.5 points to shatter her own record and put her almost five points ahead of longtime rival Mao Asada.

Emotional performance

Canada’s Joannie Rochette, skating just two days after the sudden death of her mother Therese, gave the most moving performance. Fighting tears as she took her starting pose, Rochette composed herself and let her skating mask her grief, eventually scoring 71.36 points for third place.

Unable to speak with media, Skate Canada’s high performance director Mike Slipchuk issued a brief statement on her behalf.

“Words cannot describe (how I feel),” she said. “(It was a) very nice warm welcome, hard to handle but I appreciate the support. I’ll remember this forever.”

The US head the standings with seven golds and 26 medals overall. Germany also have seven golds and 23 medals in total.

The medals in men’s ice hockey will not be decided until Sunday but Canada at least stayed in the hunt with a confidence-boosting 8-2 win over Germany.

The Canadians had been relegated to the sudden-death qualifiers after losing to the US but brushed past Germany to set up a quarter-final showdown with Russia.

Roared on by another capacity crowd, the Canadians led only 1-0 at the end of the first period before easing their nerves with three goals in the second and another four in the third.

Source: News Agencies


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