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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Blunder costs Dutchman medal

 •  Korean takes big lead

Associated Press

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Sven Kramer

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RICHMOND, British Columbia With a couple of laps to go in a race he was a lock to win, Sven Kramer sensed something might be wrong. He glanced toward his girlfriend in the stands, surely expecting a big smile.

Instead, her face was buried in her hands.

"I thought this is not good," Kramer said.

It wasn't.

After crossing the line faster than anyone in the 10,000 meters, Kramer learned he skated the final eight laps in the wrong lane yesterday. The amateurish blunder could be blamed on his coach but, in the end, the greatest long-distance speedskater in the world paid for the mistake in the worst way.

No gold. No silver. No bronze. Nothing.

He flung away his orange-rimmed glasses in disgust after learning his coach, Gerard Kemkers, sent him to the wrong lane on a changeover with a certain victory in sight. The Dutchman was disqualified and Lee Seung-hoon of South Korea got the top step on the podium with a time that was more than 4 seconds slower than Kramer's.

"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 realized the mistake before Kramer even finished, hugging his coaches on the infield.

Not that he expected to win this way.

"I know I was really lucky to get this gold medal," said Lee, who only switched over from short track seven months ago.

As Kramer came across the line, he flipped down his hood and threw up his arms, believing he had won his second gold medal of the Vancouver Games. Then, as he was coasting along on the backstretch, Kemkers delivered the stunning news to his skater: Instead of a victory, he had been disqualified for failing to switch lanes on the 17th of 25 laps.

"I knew my world had just collapsed on me," Kemkers said.

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.

"I expected to be on the podium, but not for the gold. I could not have realized that this would have happened," said Lee, who won silver in the 5,000. "Sven Kramer is a great skater."

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).

"Finally I beat Sven, but I don't want it this way," de Jong said.

This was the second straight Olympics that a silly mistake cost Kramer a likely gold medal. At the 2006 Turin Games, the Dutchman stepped on a lane marker and fell during the semifinals of team pursuit, an event his country was overwhelmingly favored to win. Instead, the Dutch settled for bronze.