RICHMOND, B.C. — Lee Seung-hoon of South Korea won a stunning Olympic gold medal in men’s 10,000-meter speedskating Tuesday when overwhelming favourite Sven Kramer made an amateurish mistake, failing to switch lanes just past the midway point of the race, and was disqualified.
Kramer finished about four seconds ahead of Lee, but it didn’t matter. The South Korean already was celebrating on the infield while the Dutch world-record holder was finishing his race, apparently unaware of what he had done.
When Kramer came across the line, he threw up his arms to celebrate what he thought was his second gold medal of the Vancouver Games. Then, as he was coasting along on the backstretch, the victory celebration suddenly ended.
Dutch coach Gerard Kemkers told the skater what he had done. Kramer reacted with disbelief, then slung away his glasses in disgust.
“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). At the end of the day, it is my responsibility. I am the skater on the ice, I have to do it.”
Lee won with an Olympic-record time of 12 minutes, 58.55 seconds, breaking the mark of 12:58.92 set by Jochem Uytdehaage of the Netherlands at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.
The silver went to Ivan Skobrev of Russia (13:02.07), while defending Olympic champion Bob de Jong ended up with an unexpected bronze (13:06.73). No Canadian skaters were in the event.
Skobrev empathized with Kramer, saying the pressures on athletes at the Olympics can help produce such mental errors during competition.
“It’s not only pressure for your legs and your body, it’s also pressure for your head,” said Skobrev. “Did you see how many Dutch were in the ice rink today? Everybody was trying to help Sven. I really feel sorry for him. Today my medal was bronze. I’m happy with a silver but I don’t think it’s right.”