Speedskating at Sochi: it’s all about the Dutch

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) - In the last speedskating race of the Sochi Olympics, there was really no doubt about which team would win.

Even the Dutch were coasting for a while on their way to another gold medal.

“We didn’t have to do our utmost,” Jorien ter Mors, part of the winning team in women’s pursuit, conceded. “We had to make sure we didn’t fall.”

And that’s essentially what has happened in speedskating. The Dutch piled up eight golds and 23 medals overall in a dozen events on the Sochi big oval - nearly twice as many medals as every other country combined.

“I really didn’t think we could be this good,” said Sven Kramer, who won two golds and a silver. “It surprises me, too.”

Clearly, everyone else has a lot of work to do between now and 2018 just to catch up, particularly former powerhouses such as the United States, Germany and Norway.

The results were so lopsided that International Skating Union President Ottavio Cinquanta told The Associated Press that he will push for a special investigation into why the other teams weren’t competitive: “Somebody is sleeping, is not working enough.”

The shutout in Sochi was especially stunning for the Americans.

They arrived at the Winter Games coming off a strong World Cup season and talking confidently of taking a run at their best performance ever. Instead the U.S. was a total flop, kept off the podium for the first time since 1984.

“Worst … Olympics … EVER,” said two-time gold medalist Shani Davis, who never got up to speed in Sochi.

He had plenty of company on the U.S. team, which - in a move wreaking of total desperation - dumped its touted high-tech suits halfway through the games and went back to the suit its skaters were using before the Olympics. It didn’t help; the top individual showing for the Americans was seventh. Davis finished eighth and 11th in his two best events. On the final day, the women placed sixth in team pursuit for the highest U.S. ranking of the competition.

“We came in being one of the most decorated (skating teams) in the Winter Olympics and we come away with zero medals,” Davis said. “It’s horrible.”

The U.S. wasn’t alone in that department.

The Norwegian team, so disheartened at its prospects in the 10,000 meters, didn’t send anyone to race in the event.

“It is not the Netherlands’ fault. We are not good enough,” national coach Jarle Pedersen said. “Their second best skaters are probably better than most on the national teams of other countries.”

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