x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Schoolboy error costs Kramer gold

The 10,000m speedskating title handed to South Korea's Lee Seung-hoon after the Dutch world champion fails to switch lanes properly.

Sven Kramer, left, is comforted after being disqualified in the men's 10,000m speedskating race in Vancouver.
Sven Kramer, left, is comforted after being disqualified in the men's 10,000m speedskating race in Vancouver.

VANCOUVER // The biggest mistake of Sven Kramer's career cost him a second Olympic speedskating title and handed South Korea's Lee Seung-hoon an unexpected gold medal on Tuesday. The world champion was disqualified despite posting the fastest time in the 10,000 metres after failing to switch lanes properly, an elementary error that was unprecedented for a skater of his stature.

Kramer was an overwhelming favourite to add the 10,000 title to his victory in the 5,000. But the gold medal was awarded instead to Lee in an Olympic-record time of 12:58.55. Russia's Ivan Skobrev picked up silver and bronze went to Bob de Jong, the defending champion and Kramer's teammate on the Netherlands team. Kramer blamed his coach for wrongly pointing him down the inside lane on the 17th of 25 laps, but said: "At the end of the day, it is my responsibility. I am the skater on the ice, I have to do it."

Kramer raised his arms in triumph after crossing the line at the Richmond Olympic oval, moments before Gerard Kemkers, the Dutch coach, skated over to tell him of the disqualification. Kramer reacted with disbelief, kicking the ice. "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."

Kemkers took the blame. "It all happened in a split second. It is a disastrous error. This is my absolute worst moment," he said, adding that when the realisation hit him: "I knew my world had just collapsed on me." Lee was as amazed as anyone about Kramer's breach of one of the most basic rules of long-track speedskating, which requires competitors to switch lanes each time they go down the back stretch to even up the distance they cover.

At Whistler, Switzerland's Carlo Janka celebrated an Olympic giant slalom gold medal to go with his world championship title with a combined two-run time of two minutes, 37.83 seconds. Norway collected silver and bronze with Kjetil Jansrud finishing 0.41 seconds behind Janka in second place and Aksel Lund Svindal completing a full set of Vancouver medals by taking bronze to go with his gold in the super-G and silver in the downhill.

Russia had earlier secured the first gold medal of day 12, with Olga Zaitseva completing her victory in the women's biathlon relay in one hour, nine minutes, 36.3 seconds to beat France and Germany. Canada won their sixth gold medal of the Games, joining Norway and Switzerland only one behind the competition-leading United States and Germany, when Ashleigh McIvor defeated Norwegian Hedda Berntsen in the final of the women's skicross, held in heavy snow.

Austria defended their title in the Nordic combined team relay, overtaking the United States in the last straight of the cross-country section after placing third in the ski-jumping portion of the event. In women's figure skating, Kim Yu-na of South Korea had fans and judges swooning in the short programme, scoring 78.5 points to shatter her own record and put her almost five points ahead of longtime rival Mao Asada.

Canada's Joannie Rochette, skating just two days after the sudden death of her mother ,Therese, gave the most moving performance. Fighting tears as she took her starting pose, Rochette composed herself and let her skating mask her grief, eventually scoring 71.36 points for third place. * Associated Press