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Uytdehaage Wins Speedskating Gold

February 22, 2002

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KEARNS, Utah (AP) _ To the surprise of no one, speedskating gold in the 10,000 meters went to a Dutchman. Just not the guy most people expected.

Jochem Uytdehaage won his second gold medal of the Salt Lake City Games, becoming the first skater to break the 13-minute barrier in the sport’s longest race Friday.

Uytdehaage, who won gold in the 5,000 and silver in the 1,500, finished a brilliant Olympics by upsetting countryman Gianni Romme with a time of 12 minutes, 58.92 seconds.

``He’s the king of these Olympics in speedskating,″ said American Derek Parra, who skated in the same pair with Uytdehaage. ``He looks so efficient. He’s enjoying skating. He was on fire.″

Romme, who won the gold four years ago, held the old world record of 13:03.40 and was anxious to get on the ice for his only Olympic race.

But he faded in the high altitude of the Utah Olympic Oval, settling for silver in 13:10.03.

Norway’s Lasse Saetre won the bronze in 13:16.92.

After the final pair skated, Uytdehaage mustered the energy to jog around the inner part of the oval while carrying a Dutch flag, orange balloons attached to the top of it.

He was cheered by thousands of orange-clad Dutch fans and a band from his homeland, Kleintje Pils (``Small Beer″).

Jason Hedstrand was the top American finisher, placing 12th out of 16 skaters but setting a national record of 13:32.99.

Parra, skating just his second 10,000 of the season, couldn’t add another medal to his 1,500 gold and 5,000 silver. Struggling at the end of the grueling 25-lap race, he wound up 13th in 13:33.44.

The American hung with Uytdehaage for a few laps but couldn’t maintain the blistering pace.

``I knew he’d be the one to beat,″ Parra said. ``I was hoping I could hang on with him, maybe have him pull me to a medal, but it just didn’t happen.″

Romme pulled off the 5,000-10,000 double at Nagano, but he shockingly failed to make the Dutch team in the shorter race for Salt Lake City.

When Uytdehaage won the 5,000 with a world record last Saturday, Romme couldn’t even bear to watch. He refused to turn on the television while resting at his apartment.

Romme’s failure at the Dutch trials left him only one change to win gold. He was on world-record pace at the halfway point but his lap times soared over 32 seconds for all but one of the last 13 laps.

``I was not good,″ Romme said. ``It was not a good race.″

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