SkipNavigation

Posted: Feb 24, 2:37p ET | Updated: Mar 4, 8:33p ET

Kramer says he'll stay with coach after blunder

Dutch speed skater lost 10,000m gold medal after coach sent him down the wrong lane

RICHMOND, British Columbia (AP) -- Sven Kramer and his coach agreed to stay together despite Gerard Kemkers' part in one of the most embarrassing blunders in Olympic history.

Kemkers took the blame for directing Kramer into the wrong lane in the 10,000m race, a move which got the world champion and overwhelming favorite disqualified despite finishing with the fastest time.

To view nbcolympics.com fully make sure you have Macromedia Flash Player version 7 or higher. Click here to download.getFlashIcon

"The past years were simply too good to drop someone just like that," Kramer said.

Back at training Wednesday, Kramer was focussing on Kemkers' positive contributions to his career.

"Three times world champion, four times European champion, so many World Cups and Olympic gold in the 5,000 meters," Kramer said.

The disqualification was shocking enough for occasional viewers in Vancouver. In the Netherlands, where the sport is like a national institution, the unprecedented mistake from such an experienced and successful combination has dumbfounded fans and critics.

"Such things can happen to the best of us, but also to the biggest amateurs," Kramer said.

Kramer was visibly angry after the race. Then came the conversation with Kemkers -- that couldn't be avoided.

"Our talk was not easy, but we both came out of it all right. And that is the most important," Kramer said. "I am not the kind of person to stay angry too long."

Lee Seung-hoon collected the gold medal in an Olympic record time, despite it being almost four seconds slower than the time Kramer posted.

"It happened. It is done with. It is terrible. The medal is in South Korea and we will never get it back," said Kramer, who hadn't watched any replays of the race because he had a very vivid recollection. "It is burned into my retina."

IOC president Jacques Rogge felt for both athlete and coach.

"It is true that a successful coach and athlete is like a couple. It is up to Sven to see how he reacts," Rogge said Wednesday at the Olympic Oval.

Kemkers was busy writing some speedskating code to show how Kramer's race was progressing over halfway through the race -- when, in a split second, he lost track of things.

Coaches monitor changeovers to make sure skaters move inside or out but usually never have to do a thing. Never in his career had Kemkers needed to correct Kramer.

And as Kramer was making a move to go to the outside lane -- the correct option -- Kemkers thought for the first time his pupil was wrong.

Not fully convinced, Kemkers looked back and saw skater Ivan Skobrev, who had cut inside early in the changeover, and presumed the Russian had to move outside. Wrong again.

With Kramer approaching the red cone at the end of the changeover, Kemkers desperately pointed him inside with one finger, sending his skater straight into a DQ.

"I make hundreds of thousands of those decisions. Time and again, and always the decisions were right," Kemkers said. "I was convinced he made the error, not me."

At home in the Netherlands, 6.7 million out of a total population of 16 million were watching on TV as the drama unfolded.

The obvious questions followed.

It is not as if Kemkers lacks experience. He took bronze in the 5000m at the 1988 Calgary Games and has led Ireen Wust and Jochem Uytdehaage to multiple Olympic gold medals. He also was coach of the U.S. speedskating team at the 1998 Nagano Games.

"How is this possible!" screamed the headline in mass circulation De Telegraaf.

Kemkers said the distraction was caused by trying to do too many things at the same time. Writing down information, forcing him to look away from the ice for a few vital seconds. Most other coaches use finger indicators, but Kemkers has it written down on a white board.

He was also using a wireless phone for the first time at the games to get word from other Dutch officials.

"I was distracted by the fact that I wanted to coach him too perfectly. I had a lot of attributes with me to anticipate every situation because I want to do it the best way possible," Kemkers said.

In the end, the most important message he shouted through his wireless phone came immediately after the blunder.

"It is wrong and I am wrong," he said.

Kramer is so demanding on race information, he sometimes shouts questions at Kemkers hoping to get answers the next time around.

As standard practice, Kramer said, "I want to know five to six times how big my lead is. If that is the deal, you try to do it as well as possible. You cannot blame somebody for that."

"This way I also won a lot of races," the skater said.

The blunder, though, will lead to a re-evaluation of coaching during races.

"It is something to think about in the future," Kramer said.

As long as both coach and skater are in the Olympic zone, centering on Friday and Saturday's team pursuit, the issue will be contained.

"This is an incident of such proportion that there will be consequences," Kemkers said. "It is unique situation that someone loses gold because of a coaching error.

"It has an enormous impact. It is the category that it will come back every year. This will cost Sven a lot -- fame, being a champion, marketing, whatever."

Rate this article
12345

Rating:

Share this article




Speed Skating - Most Recent

More Speed Skating:

Slideshows

To view nbcolympics.com fully make sure you have Macromedia Flash Player version 7 or higher. Click here to download.getFlashIcon

Slideshows

To view nbcolympics.com fully make sure you have Macromedia Flash Player version 7 or higher. Click here to download.getFlashIcon

©2010 NBC Universal. All rights reserved. Any use, reproduction, modification, distribution, display or performance of this material without NBC Universal's prior written consent is prohibited.