Nuis makes sure Dutch stay good as gold at Olympic Oval
GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — The Olympic Oval has turned into the royal House of Orange — and not because Dutch King Willem-Alexander is there most nights. It’s all about the speedskating.
Kjeld Nuis made it four gold medals in four races for the Netherlands, a run nearly beyond belief.
“This is no longer normal,” Nuis said Tuesday after winning the 1,500 meters.
Moving in a blur of orange early on with a blistering pace, Nuis swept past his toughest opponents to take home gold. In second, of course, was another Dutchman — teammate Patrick Roest.
The Dutch have now won eight of 12 medals at the Pyeongchang Games, keeping them on the stunning medal pace set at the 2014 Sochi Games when they finished with 23 out of 36.
The 22-year-old Roest raced with the ruthless abandon of an Olympic rookie and set an early time of 1 minute, 44.86 seconds over a distance where racers either set off fast and try to hold on or pace themselves throughout.
Nuis picked the first strategy and rode it to perfection.
“I went real hard from the start not to have any regrets later,” said Nuis, whose main worry near the end of the race was to stay upright as his powerful thighs started burning with pain. “In the last corner I was thinking, ’Don’t fall. Don’t fall.”
He certainly didn’t.
At the same time, Roest was already in the stands, over an hour after he had set the early lead. It almost was good enough for gold in his first Olympics.
“The nerves were continuing to roil,” Roest said. “It was a long wait.”
With lots of Dutch fans in the crowd, the top two got big cheers in the victory ceremony. But the biggest roar of all at the 8,000-capacity oval was for Kim Min-seok, the 18-year-old home skater who took bronze.
American skaters disappointed again with Joey Mantia finishing eighth and Shani Davis crossing in 19th position, leaving the United States with another bad start in the Olympics after they were shut out in Sochi.
The 1,500 race was seriously affected by the exclusion of world-record holder Denis Yuskov, who is missing because of the Russian doping scandal.
Nuis got a congratulatory message from the Russian and replied, but refused to say what was in it.
On the opening day of the speedskating events, Carlijn Achtereekte won the 3,000. Olympic champions Sven Kramer and Ireen Wust added the 5,000 and 1,500, respectively, making the Dutch 4 for 4.
But don’t count on 5 for 5 on Wednesday when the women’s 1,000 is scheduled. That looks set to go to Nao Kodaira of Japan, who has been the overwhelming favorite for most of the season.
Then again, Wust, 1,500 bronze medalist Marrit Leenstra and Jorien ter Mors will also line up in orange.
More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org