- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 24, 2010

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Bode Miller made the kind of mistake that happens in skiing, especially for a risk-taker like him. The gaffe made by Dutch speedskater Sven Kramer? Unbelievable.

Kramer, the overwhelming favorite in the men’s 10,000 meters, made an amateurish mistake — failing to switch lanes just past the midway point of the race — and was disqualified.

Lee Seung-hoon of South Korea took the gold medal.

Kramer finished about 4 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.

Kramer actually made the switch, but his coach missed it. Thinking his star was about to make an epic mistake, the coach animatedly motioned for Kramer to switch lanes. Kramer seemed to pause before deciding to follow orders.

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 Ivan Skobrev of Russia (13:02.07), while defending Olympic champion Bob de Jong ended up with an unexpected bronze (13:06.73).

But this will always be known as the race that one of the surest bests in these games let get away because he failed to abide by the most basic of rules.

In long track speedskating, the competitors switch lanes each time they go down the backstretch to even up the distance they cover. On the 17th of 25 laps, Kramer messed up.

“I’ve seen it once or twice in my career,” Olympic speedskating gold medalist Dan Jansen said on NBC, “but never with a top skater and certainly never in the Olympic Games.”

The Dutchman already had won the 5,000 in dominating fashion, setting an Olympic record, and seemed a lock to become the fourth athlete from his speedskating-mad nation to sweep the two longest events on the men’s program.

Instead, the gold went to Lee, who had won silver in the 5,000.

“I expected to be on the podium but not for the gold,” Lee said. “I could not have realized that this would have happened. I trained and prepared long for this. Sven Kramer is a great skater.”

While the three medalists celebrated, Kramer sat alone on a bench along the front straightaway, trying to figure out what went wrong.

All Miller did was lose control and fail to finish his first run down the giant slalom course to miss his chance for a record fourth Alpine medal at a single Winter Games. But he notched what could be called a Bode Slam: a gold, a silver, a bronze and a DNF (did not finish).

Elsewhere around the Vancouver Olympics on Tuesday, Canada’s hockey team bounced back with an 8-2 victory over Germany and Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette earned the best score of her career under incredibly emotional circumstances — performing on home ice two days after her mother died of a heart attack shortly after arriving here. She’ll go into the final Thursday night in third place.

Americans won silver in the Nordic combined, making it 26 medals at these games, breaking their record for a Winter Olympics not held in the United States. Germany is closing in on the lead, though, with 22 medals.

With a silver in the women’s skicross race, Norway became the first country to reach 300 Winter Olympics medals. Norway became the first country to reach 100 golds last week.

Nasty weather moved back into the area Tuesday, especially in the mountains, which could mess with the schedule Wednesday. There’s a good chance the women’s giant slalom will be delayed.

• • •

Giant slalom

Miller almost crashed during the top half of his run, straightened out, then couldn’t stay on line coming out of a gate in the second half.

“I’m taking more risk than everyone else,” Miller told the Associated Press. “That’s partly why I’m able to get medals. It looks easy when you make it. When you crash like today, it’s like, ‘Oh, huh?’”

It shouldn’t have been much of a surprise: He’s yet to finish a run this season in the giant slalom.

His final event is the slalom Saturday.

Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway got bronze, joining Miller with three Alpine medals. American Ted Ligety finished ninth.

The women’s event is scheduled for Wednesday, but rain and snow is forecast. That will be Julia Mancuso’s final event in Vancouver. Mancuso, who has won two silver medals, said she won’t be competing in the slalom, her worst event.

• • •

Hockey

Jarome Iginla scored twice and new goalie Roberto Luongo was good enough to get the Canadians back on track and into a colossal quarterfinal game against Russia, a matchup many expected for the gold-medal game.

“Hopefully, it’s not our biggest game this week,” Luongo said.

The U.S. men’s team will face Switzerland (again) in the quarterfinals. The Swiss advanced with a 3-2 shootout victory over Belarus. The Americans beat them 3-1 on Feb. 16.

The two late games were marred by injuries: Slovakia forward Lubos Bartecko leaving on a stretcher after being leveled by a Norway defender, and Czech’s Jaromir Jagr going out in the second period against Latvia with an upper-body injury.

Slovakia put aside the worrisome injury and the anger resulting from the hit that caused it to beat Norway 4-3. The team now moves to the Olympic quarterfinals to play Sweden.

The Czech Republic will play Finland after beating Latvia 3-2 in overtime. Slovakia and Norway were playing later to see who would play Olympic champion Sweden.

All quarterfinals are Wednesday.

• • •

Nordic combined

Johnny Spillane became the first American to win a medal in this event, getting silver earlier in these games. Now he’s got another — and sharing it with his friends.

The team of Spillane, Todd Lodwick, Billy Demong and Brett Camerota was a narrow second in the team relay event, which combined jumping off the large hill, then a 4-by-5 kilometer relay.

• • •

Figure skating

South Korea’s Kim Yu-na came in a huge favorite to win the women’s gold medal, then exceeded expectations.

Kim set a world-best score in the short program, giving her a huge lead over her top rival, Japan’s Mao Asada. Rochette is next, with a decent edge over the rest of the pack.

“It was hard to handle, but I appreciate the support,” she said.

American Rachael Flatt and Mirai Nagasu are fifth and sixth. Nagasu was thrown out of whack when her nose started bleeding halfway through her routine.

• • •

Bobsled

Midway through the women’s competition, the USA-2 sled of Erin Pac and Elana Myers is in second place. The Americans set a track record in their second run, only to have the Canada 1 crew lower it by four-hundredths of a second.

Two other U.S. tandems are tied for sixth.

• • •

Biathlon

About the only thing that went wrong for the Russians was no one near the finish line offering up their flag. That was why Olga Zaitseva slowed to the finish and ended up giving high-fives and blowing kisses.

The Americans were 17th.

• • •

Skicross

What a way to break in a sport: Ashleigh McIvor, who grew up in nearby Whistler and is ranked second in the world, won the final going away.

“Skicross is the newest form of ski racing, but in its essence, it’s been around forever,” she said. “It’s racing your friends from the top of the mountain to the bottom. The IOC is really interested in keeping up with the next generation and keeping the Olympics cool, and skicross is a great way to do that.”

• • •

Curling

A day after the U.S. men were eliminated, the women were, too, following a loss to China. They lost their finale to Switzerland to finish 2-7, worst in the tournament.

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