SkipNavigation

Posted: Feb 26, 5:02a ET | Updated: Feb 26, 5:02a ET

Preview: Kramer could get second gold after all

Dutch star hopes to lead men's pursuit team to victory

RICHMOND, British Columbia (AP) -- Sven Kramer has another shot at gold -- and this time he won't have to worry about switching lanes.

The speed skating competition wraps up Friday and Saturday with team pursuit, an event that gives the Dutchman a shot at redemption after a shocking blunder in the 10,000m.

Kramer posted a time that was more than four seconds faster than anyone else, only to be disqualified because his coach sent him to the wrong lane on a routine changeover.

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

Kramer has made up with Gerard Kemkers and turned his focus to the pursuit, an event that was added to the Winter Games in 2006, providing head-to-head competition between teams of three tightly bunched skaters starting from opposite sides of the oval.

There are no changeovers in the event -- breathe a little easier, Sven -- and the winner is determined by which team gets all three of its skaters across the line first. The men race eight laps from the inside lane, the women six.

"We have to go on," Kramer said.

Chad Hedrick, a four-time Olympic medalist, is ready to move on. The 33-year-old American plans to retire after these games, and he's already making his pitch to become a sports broadcaster.

"Would I like to sit down at 9 o'clock every night and give the sports? Yeah, it would be cool," the Texan said Thursday after a morning workout at the Richmond Olympic Oval. "Would I like my life to be going to football games and reporting from football games? Yeah, that would be an ideal job for me. I think people would be able to relate to me."

First, there's the pursuit.

Hedrick would like to go out with one more medal, the elder statesman of an underdog American squad that also includes a trio of 19-year-olds: Trevor Marsicano, Brian Hansen and Jonathan Kuck. Three skaters will be chosen to skate each round, and swapping out is allowed.

While Hedrick won bronze in the 1000m and was sixth in the 1500m, the highest finish among the other three skaters is Kuck's eighth-place showing in the 10,000m.

Compare that with the Dutch, who are led by gold medalists Kramer -- who won the 5000m before his flub in the 10,000m -- and Mark Tuitert, surprise winner of the 1500m.

The Americans will face Japan in the quarterfinals. The other Friday matchups on the men's side: Canada vs. defending champion Italy, surprising South Korea vs. Norway, and the Netherlands vs. Sweden.

"I'm really surprised by these young guys I have with me," Davis said of his team. "Individually in their races, maybe they didn't do the greatest. Maybe they weren't the most visible people out there. But these guys are good skaters. ... We're excited to go out there and show 'em what we've got."

Also keep an eye on the South Koreans, who have been the biggest speed skating shocker of these Olympics.

The Asian nation had never won a gold medal at the Winter Games in any sport except short track until it got to Vancouver. Now it has a chance to finish atop the oval medal table, going into the final two events with three golds and two silvers. The Dutch also have three golds and six medals overall.

"The Koreans form a tight unit, and everybody is feeding off each other there," said Dutch skater Ireen Wust, gold medalist in the women's 1500m. "You often see this. One does great and everyone gets into this upward spiral."

The Netherlands, Canada and Germany appear to be the strongest medal contenders on the women's side, but one of them won't get out of the opening round. The Dutch drew Germany in the quarterfinals.

The Americans are just focused on getting past their first race. They will face the host Canadians, led by medalists Christine Nesbitt and Kristina Groves. The other matchups Friday are Japan vs. South Korea and Russia vs. Poland.

"We're going to be in a really tough group," said Jennifer Rodriguez, a two-time Olympic medalist. "If we can get out of the first round, we may have a chance to do something good."

While not as sure about retirement as Hedrick, the 34-year-old Rodriguez knows her fourth Olympics will likely be her last. She plans to finish out the season, then decide what to do with the rest of her life.

"I'm not really thinking about that when I'm racing. But I do realize my time has come," said Rodriguez, whose best individual finish at these games was seventh in the 1000m. "I think it's time to pass the torch to the younger ones."

Germany is the defending women's pursuit champion, while Italy took the men's title on its home ice in Turin after the favored Dutch went out because of another Kramer mishap. He stepped on a lane marker and crashed in the semifinals, leaving his team with a bronze instead of the gold everyone expected.

The Italians are paced again by Enrico Fabris, who won three medals at the 2006 Games but has disappointed in Vancouver. He finished seventh in the 5000m and 10th in the 1500m and dropped out of the 10,000m after waking up the morning of the race with a stomach virus.

"I feel better," Fabris said. "I expect great things because my other teammates are good and we can do well."

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.