Dutch Speedskaters on Record Pace With Sochi Olympics Medal Haul

The Netherlands is one medal away from matching its record Olympic haul after a dominating showing at the speed skating oval in Sochi, where the Dutch have won four of the first five competitions and claimed 10 of 15 medals available so far.

Stefan Groothuis took gold yesterday in the men’s 1,000-meter event, ending American Shani Davis’s eight-year run as Olympic champion. Michel Mulder received the bronze, two days after winning the 500-meter race for the Netherlands.

Through the first three men’s speed skating races in Sochi, Dutch skaters have earned eight of the nine podium spots, with sweeps of the 5,000-meter and 500-meter medals. With 10 medals in total, the Netherlands is one behind its record of 11 at the 1998 Nagano Games, where it won five speed skating golds.

“Everything falls into place, and everybody skates so well, but we shouldn’t think it comes easily,” said Mulder, who became the first multimedalist in Sochi and whose twin brother, Ronald, took bronze in the 500m competition. “Everyone is performing exceptionally.”

The Dutch, who Mulder said have celebrated their skating success at the Holland Heineken House in Sochi, can match or surpass their record Olympic haul today in the women’s 1,000-meter race. Among their four participants are Ireen Wust, who won gold in the 3,000m on Feb. 9 and Margot Boer, the bronze medalist in the 500m two days ago.

There are six speed skating events after that, culminating with the men’s and women’s team pursuit on Feb. 22, and the Netherlands has the defending champion in three of them.

Skating Success

The Netherlands has already surpassed its performance from the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, where seven of its eight medals were won in speed skating, including four gold medals. The only other -- a women’s snowboarding gold in parallel giant slalom -- is among just two non-speed skating medals won by the Dutch at the Winter Olympics since 1964.

The Netherlands is tied with Canada for the second-most medals at the Sochi Games, two behind Norway, which tops the standings with 12. The four gold medals for the Dutch are also tied for the second-most, two behind Germany’s six.

Groothuis, 32, won yesterday’s 1,000m men’s race in a time of 1 minute, 8.39 seconds, surpassing his previous best World Cup performance of the season by more than a full second.

‘Really Expected’

Groothuis, who was fourth in the event in Vancouver and eighth at the 2006 Torino Games, also helped unseat Davis, the two-time defending champion and pre-race favorite after winning three of four World Cup races this season. Davis placed eighth.

“It was really unexpected,” Groothuis said after finishing four-hundredths of a second faster than Canada’s Denny Morrison at the Adler Arena. “The last two Olympics weren’t my favorite thing, and I was happy to go home, but now it’s different. I’m 32 now. The next Olympic Games I will probably not be there, so it had to happen now and it did.”

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