Bloemen ends Dutch dominance at the Olympic Oval

GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) The roots of Ted-Jan Bloemen will have many saying his Olympic gold medal in speedskating is at least part Dutch.

Forget it. His recipe for victory in the 10,000 meters was as Canadian as maple syrup.

”Everything changed for me,” Bloemen said of his move to North America. ”I had a whole different country, different continent, different culture, different team around me, different coach.”

Bloemen finally broke the Dutch hold on the top step of the podium at the oval on Day 6 of the Pyeongchang Games with a race that not only brought him the Olympic record, but also total vindication of his decision to leave the Netherlands.

Defending champion Jorrit Bergsma took silver and Dutch teammate Sven Kramer again failed to win the one Olympic race he most craves. Missing power and pace, Kramer slumped to sixth, well behind surprise bronze medalist Nicola Tumolero of Italy.

Unable to get on the Dutch team for the 2014 Sochi Games, Bloemen needed to change everything around. At 27, he was ill-disciplined and could not find his way in the ultra-competitive world of Dutch speedskating.

His father was born in New Brunswick, Canada, and with little to lose he tried the last option he could think of and became a member of the Canadian team.

Settling near Calgary, he found what he needed.

”I got married. There’s so many things that changed,” Bloemen said. ”It made for a really great combination where I’ve been feeling really happy and grateful.”

He even became more disciplined, a key ingredient in the grueling world of long-distance skating, where the origins of a strong final lap can sometimes be found in summer training half a year earlier.

It showed in his race on Thursday.

Bloemen set off at a blistering pace, and at the two-kilometer he was already three seconds within the Olympic-record pace Bergsma had set just before him. He maintained the lead for much of the time but he briefly could not match Bergsma’s pace with five laps to go.

Somehow, though, his Canadian preparations paid golden dividends and Bloemen went into overdrive to secure the victory.

Arms wide open, his smile at its widest, Bloemen clenched his fists as he crossed the line. His time of 12 minutes, 39.77 seconds beat Bergsma by 2.21 seconds. Tumolero earned bronze in 12:54.32.

He still had to wait for Kramer, though, a man with the ability to chase anyone and everyone down. The only time he has not is in the Olympic 10,000.

Thursday was no different, even if he had already won the 5,000 at the Pyeongchang Games.

With two kilometers to go in Kramer’s race, Bloemen’s coach, Bart Schouten, held his skater in a warm embrace, knowing not even the Dutch great could recover from such a deficit.

Crossing the line, Kramer looked stunned and glided up to Bloemen to congratulate the new champion as he held the Canadian flag aloft.

”I wasn’t in the flow. I had a pretty hard time. I was working too much from the beginning,” Kramer said. ”And Ted-Jan Bloemen skated a fantastic time.”

A golden time, in fact, for a Dutch-born speedskater who is sometimes jokingly called by his anglicized name of TJ Flowers in his old country.

Canadian all the way.

More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org

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