Dutch clinch 22nd speedskating medal in Sochi

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) - One orange-clad team set an Olympic record and another assured the Netherlands of at least a 22nd speedskating medal at the Sochi Games.

In short, it was just another day at the big oval for the Dutch.

And even without a gold medal to skate for, their two pursuit teams dominated with such ease it seemed they hardly broke a sweat. “We have nothing yet,” said Sven Kramer after reaching the final. “Well, yeah, we have a guaranteed silver,” highlighting that only Dutch standard in Sochi is gold.

It is something traditional powers like the Americans and Norwegians can only dream of. They joined Germany in the knowledge they will not win a single speedskating medal in Sochi.

Both American teams were immediately eliminated in their quarterfinal, completing the first U.S. speedskating shutout in 30 years.

The American men’s trio had an awful start when Jonathan Kuck took too long to catch up with the two ahead of him and never recovered. “We were out of sync,” Shani Davis said. “Probably we didn’t practice it enough.”

The Dutch meanwhile, have been dedicated to the team pursuit since the summer, with lots of practice. It showed. They twice routed opposition, first France, then Poland, to get to their first final in the event since it was introduced in 2006.

Sven Kramer, Jan Blokhuijsen and Koen Verweij coasted past France by 8.70 seconds in the quarterfinals, then went even faster in the semifinals. Nearly catching Poland and just missing an Olympic record, the Dutch won by a staggering 11.30 after eight loops around the oval.

They will face South Korea in Saturday’s final. Unless the Dutch make a silly mistake - which has happened before - it seems no one can deny them gold.

In that knowledge, Kramer made it clear nothing was assured yet. “We’ll have to watch out because the Koreans really set a sharp time,” Kramer said. “Shows they will be really good for the final.”

Still, the difference is huge, just looking at the skaters. Kramer already won gold in the 5,000 and silver in the 10,000, Verweij was .003 seconds short of gold in the 1,500 and Blokhuijsen took silver in the 5,000. The South Korean team has yet to win a single medal.

Lee Seung-hoon of South Korea knew what he was up against. “Whatever happens, we will at least have a silver,” he said.

The Americans will not even have bronze and their elimination assured them the first medal-less Olympics in speedskating since the 1984 Sarajevo Games.

The Dutch are having their best-ever games, and even if the women are not yet assured of another medal since they only had one qualifying run, it is tough to see who will get close to them.

Ireen Wust, Lotte van Beek and Jorien ter Mors gave every indication that they’ll make it 23 medals for the orange wave, setting an Olympic record of 2 minutes, 58.61 seconds while comfortably beating the United States by 3.60 in the quarterfinals.

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