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Speedskating

Kramer is KO'd by a wrong turn

Coach's error puts Lee in golden spot

Dutchman Sven Kramer had the 10,000-meter gold in his pocket until an embarrassing mistake disqualified him. Dutchman Sven Kramer had the 10,000-meter gold in his pocket until an embarrassing mistake disqualified him. (David Hecker/AFP/Getty Images)
By Paul Newberry
Associated Press / February 24, 2010

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RICHMOND, British Columbia - Lee Seung Hoon of South Korea won a stunning gold medal in the men’s 10,000-meter event yesterday when overwhelming favorite Sven Kramer made an amateurish mistake, failing to switch lanes with a certain victory in his sights, and was disqualified.

Kramer finished more than four seconds ahead of Lee, but it didn’t matter. The South Korean already was hugging his coaches on the infield while the Dutch world record-holder was still finishing up his race.

As Kramer came across the line, he flipped down his hood and threw up his arms, believing he won his second gold medal of the Vancouver Games. Then, as he was coasting along on the backstretch, Kramer’s coach told him he had skated the last eight laps in the wrong lane. The skater flung away his glasses in disgust.

The coach, Gerard Kemkers, had given his skater the wrong instruction.

“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 in an Olympic-record 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 to Ivan Skobrev of Russia (13:02.07), and defending Olympic champion Bob de Jong of the Netherlands ended up with an unexpected bronze (13:06.73).

“I really feel bad for Kramer,’’ said Skobrev, who added to his bronze in the 5,000. “He is the best skater in the world. Sven made a mistake. That is his fault. My medal was bronze, but I have silver.’’

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’s race fell apart.

The mistake occurred as Kramer came off the first turn in the inside lane, which means it was time for him to shift to the outside lane by the end of the straightaway.

As Kramer approached the cone that a skater must be on either side of before he heads into the far turn, he was on the outside getting hand instructions from Kemkers, who motioned furiously for him to shift to the inside lane.

Kramer seemed to sense he was doing the right thing. Then, suddenly, he followed his coach’s pleas to go inside. Kramer actually wound up going across the cone with his left leg in the inside lane and his right leg in the air over the outside lane. Then he hopped into the inside lane.

The crowd recognized something was wrong when Kramer and the other skater in the final pair, Skobrev, skated the rest of the race in the same lane.

While the three medalists celebrated, Kramer sat alone on a bench along the front straightaway, trying to figure out what went wrong. Kemkers sat nearby, flashing an occasional glance at the skater he had sent to the wrong lane.

Kramer did not look back.

“It is not supposed to happen and the responsibility is all mine,’’ Kemkers said. “It all happened in a split second. It is a disastrous error. This is my absolute worst moment.’’