SOCHI, RUSSIA —
Male speed skaters from The Netherlands have surprisingly captured all six medals in the first two long track speed skating events at the Winter Olympics. The achievement also included controversy.
The thrill of victory ... and the agony of defeat. Usually an athlete will experience one or the other.
At the Sochi Olympics, Dutch speed skater Jan Smeekens experienced both emotions within a matter of minutes Tuesday at Adler Arena.
Smeekens skated in the final pair and saw on the big video screen that he had finished in first place and started celebrating. But only a few moments later a correction to the total time for his two races that determine the gold showed he had lost to teammate Michel Mulder by the closest margin of one-100th of a second (69.31 to 69.32).
"It was a kick in the gut. I was so ecstatic that I won. And I did everything in preparation for the Games this whole year, two, four years, and, yeah, the feeling that you won and then you did not, I can not even describe that," said Smeekens.
He immediately challenged the decision, but his coach gave him the bad news that the photo finish confirmed the result.
Mulder's twin brother Ronald won the bronze medal (69.46), giving the Dutch men a podium sweep for the second time in three days. They did it in the 5,000 meters on Saturday.
Dutch twin brothers Michel (left) and Ronald Mulder at a news conference following Michel's gold medal victory in the 500-meter speed skating event and Ronald's bronze medal victory in the same event, Sochi, Feb. 11. (Parke Brewer/VOA)
Also, the Mulder brothers became only second set of twins to win medals at a Winter Olympics in the same event.
They had lots of supporters in the stands. Beside the usual contingent of Dutch speed skating fans, Ronald said his girlfriend and her parents were there, as well as his and Michel's four older brothers and their parents. He said he saw them all celebrating wildly with one another. "If you have two sons being on the Olympic podium, that must be really nice," he said.
The achievement by his twin brother Michel was historic. Though the Dutch are well-known for their great speed skaters, never in the 90 years of the Winter Olympics had a Dutch male ever won the sprint event, the 500 meters. And they had only won two medals all-told in the 500 meters.
Because Michel Mulder is a two-time world speed skating sprint champion, he said that gave him the confidence that he had the ability to win the Olympic gold.
As for his and his brother's success, as well as the Dutch team at these Olympics, he said it comes as no surprise. "We grew up with ice skating. Every little kid knows how to do ice skating, I think. Everyone is doing it. And we just have a really high competition in the country," he noted.
Brother Ronald said that competitive nature is the key. "We just keep racing every race against each other and making each other better and better, and I think that is the main advantage of the Dutch," he said.
The Dutch men will continue to try to add to their medal haul in long track speed skating events.
The next is the 1,000 meters, set for Wednesday.