Winter Olympics: Long Track Speed Skating Live

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Men’s 5000m speed skating. (Photo: Karla Bruning)

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA — This is what the Colbert Nation has been waiting for at the Winter Olympics: The U.S. Olympic Speedskating team.

First up on the track is the men’s 5000 meters.

“It’s going to be intense,” said Ryan Bedford of Team USA.

Competing for the U.S. is two-time Olympic medalist Shani Davis (gold and silver in 2006), newcomer Trevor Marsicano, and three-time Olympic medalist Chad Hedrick, who won gold in this event in Torino. Today, at the newly built Richmond Olympic Oval, the U.S. has its first shot at gold with a deep field of skaters.

“We have a lot of veterans so we have the experience part covered,” Davis said. “We also have lots of young athletes itching to be here so it’s a nice combination.”

Davis’ career has exploded since the last Olympics, and with two world records under his belt—in the 1000 and 1500 meters—he’s poised to rack up some serious metal; he’s entered in all five individual events. But Davis is playing it cool.

“I don’t want to think about what I did before,” he said. “That was then; this is now. I’m going to try my best, have fun and enjoy myself.”

As will I, bringing the action to you live.I’m sitting in the Richmond Olympic Oval at my press table enjoying a Dutch marching band play “Happy Together” by The Turtles. The band calls themselves “Kleintje Pils,” which the Dutch reporter sitting next to me tells me means “a little beer.”

Naturally, the crowd—which is filled with Dutch fans decked out from head to toe in their national color of orange—goes wild. They’re here for Sven Kramer, the 5000-meter world record holder from the Netherlands. The Dutch have redubbed Vancouver “Svencouver” in his honor. He’s the man to beat at this distance, and has won every major race in recent memory—except for the last Olympics, thanks to America’s Chad Hedrick.

This is going to be a good one folks.

First up are skaters from Germany and Switzerland. They’ll set the times to beat for the rest of the race.

Up now is Trevor Marsicano of the U.S. versus Denny Morrison of Canada. A woman in the stands behind me keeps shouting, “Let’s go Trevor!”

3:10 pm (EST): And the gun goes off. “Go Trevor!” the woman behind me screams. The race is skated as a time trial, so they skating against the clock as much as their opponent.

3:12 pm: Trevor is leading the race, and every time he speeds by the woman screams. Her voice keeps getting higher every time. The Dutch reporter next to me, who exclusively covers speed skating year round, tells me Trevor is looking good.

3:15 pm: They’re nearing the finish line. I just shouted and clapped, “Come on Trevor!” As he skates by.

3:16 pm: And Trevor Marsicano finishes in 6:30.93, putting him in first place! But there are lots of skaters yet to go.

3:26 pm: After the third pair of skaters, Marsicano still has the lead. The track in 400 meter long, so the skaters race one 200-meter lap and 12 400-meter laps.

3:34 pm: I just found out that the woman who was screaming “Let’s go Trevor!” is his girlfriend, fellow Team USA speedskater Jilleanne Rookard. Rookard, 27, will compete later in the week in the 1500, 3000 and 5000 meters. They’ve been dating just over a year. Their first date was at a concert in Milwaukee, where they both live and train.

“She’s my emotional support person if I need a shoulder to fall on,” Marsicano, 20, said in the days leading up to the games. “We’re so lucky to have each other here.”

3:40 pm: Up now in pair 5 is Latvia’s Haralds Silovs, who has the distinction of being the first athlete to compete in both long and short track speed skating. He’s racing now and he’ll race again tonight in the short track 1500 meters, making Olympic history. He’ll have some tough short track competition in the form of Apolo Ohno, who you may have heard of–either from past Olympic glory or “Dancing With the Stars.”

3:45 pm: Haralds is now in fifth place, and after five pairs of skaters, USA’s Marsicano is still in the lead. Can I get a wup-wup?

3:46 pm: I don’t think there’s a bad seat in the house in this venue. The press tribunes are just a few levels above the track on a corner. I can actually hear the skaters’ blades licking the ice.

3:52 pm: Sverre Haugli of Norway has just taken Marsicano’s lead, pushing him to second.

3:55 pm: I think the Netherlands must be pretty empty right now, because they are all here in the Richmond Olympic Oval. They’ve got balloons. They’ve got noisemakers. They’ve got horns. They’ve got cowbells. And they’re not afraid to use them. Their compatriot Jan Blokhuijsen is racing now. The cheers keep rolling around the oval and he races by each part of the crowd.

3:58 pm: I’m digging the Dutch spirit, but not the Dutch uniforms. They look like they’re wearing shorts over tights. Not a good look.

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Photo: Karla Bruning

4:00 pm: This is a really elegant sport. You know these guys are working hard, but the long smooth strides just look so effortless. It’s mesmerizing.

4:02 pm: Wow, I think there are more Dutch in here than Canadians. In fact, I’m sure of it. Blokhuijsen just finished and took the lead, pushing Marsicano to third. And they crowd? Yup, they’re going nuts.

4:05 pm: It’s break time for “ice preparation.” The zambonis are out doing their thing.

4:13 pm: It’s really cold in here. Really, really cold. BC Place, where the opening ceremony took place, was warm. The Main Media Center is really warm. The media buses are downright hot. So I though I wouldn’t dress as warmly. Big mistake, as I shiver at my keyboard.

4:20 pm: I just saw a dutch man dressed like Fred Flintstone in a bright orange tunic and black wig. Kleintje Pils is playing again. The crowd is singing and swinging along. I think it’s the Dutch national anthem or some other popular Dutch song because now they’re jumping and clapping.

4:24 pm: And I was just told that we’re not allowed to take pictures as I’m about to snap a photo. Oops!

4:25 pm: And we’re back. Up now is Canadian Lucas Makowsky versus New Zealander Shane Dobbin. Having just returned from a vacation in New Zealand and currently visiting Canada, I don’t know who to cheer for! Both are lovely countries.

4:27 pm: Canada, I’m just going to say this and I don’t want you to take offense: your speed skating uniform is not attractive. It’s too busy. It’s red, it’s white, it’s black, it’s swirly, it’s gray, it has racing stripes, it looks coated in plastic in places. In short, it’s too much. Take a note from the Kiwi’s elegant black on black. Black will always be the new black.

4:30 pm: Okay, maybe there are some Canadians in here. Makowsky just ripped third place from Marsicano and the crowd is quite pleased. Sorry Trevor. Can journalists use smiley and frowny faces? If so, :( If not, oops again!

4:35 pm: We’re down to the last six pairs. This is where things start to get interesting. Up in about 10 minutes is USA’s Shani Davis versus heavy favorite Sven “Svencouver” Kramer of the Netherlands. I have butterflies and I’m only watching!

4:37 pm: Poor Germany and Japan, who are racing now. The crowd is barely cheering for them. But Sven Kramer who is in the warm-up lane? Yeah, they go nuts every time he cruises by.

4:43 pm: Skating now is France and Norway. USA is next! USA. USA. USA. I’m cyber cheering.

4:47 pm: Things are heating up! French skater Alexis Contin and Norway’s Henrik Christiansen just went 1 and 2!

4:50 pm: Here we go! Shani Davis and Sven Kramer! They just announced Kramer and the crowd goes wild. As big a cheer for Davis. Nice sportsmanship! Davis looks intensely focused. And they’re off!

4:52 pm: After 1000m they’re 1 and 2–Sven, Shani

4:54 pm: At the turn, Shani steals a glance at Sven.

4:56 pm: The gold on Shani’s skates really shines. At the 3000 meter mark, Shani drops to third. Come on Shani!

4:57 pm: 3800 meters, Shani has dropped to fourth. Sven is still in first. The crowd is on its feet!

4:58 pm: It’s a new Olympic record for Sven Kramer! And he takes the lead by nearly 5 seconds! This crowd is rather pleased. Shani Davis dropped to sixth. Trevor Marsicano is now in eighth. It’s up to Chad Hedrick to pull this out for the U.S. He’s skating in the last pair in about 15 minutes.

5:05 pm: Shani Davis will have four more chances to medal. Watch for him in the 1000 and 1500 meters–he’s the world record holder and heavy medal favorite in those two events.

5:08 pm: Only two pairs left to go. Seung-Hoon Lee of South Korea just moved into second place and Bob de Jong of the Netherlands moved into third. Itlay and Russia about to start now. Wow, Russia has a nice uniform. I like the city scape on the front.

5:11 pm: Hedrick. Hedrick. Hedrick. I’m getting ready. Team USA’s last chance to medal in this event is up next in four minutes.

5:13 pm: Shani Davis is cooling down inside the track. He’s jogging slowly with headphones in. I wonder what he’s listening to. Talked to figure skating’s Johnny Weir this morning at a press conference. He listens to Lady Gaga before competitions.

5:17 pm: Here we go! Chad Hedrick versus Harvard Bokko of Norway. Last pair of the day. This is where the medals are decided. Huge cheer for Hedrick as the defending Olympic champion. And they’re off!

5:19 pm: They’re off to a slow start at the 600-meter mark. Bokko in sixth and hedrick in ninth.

5:20 pm: At the half-way mark, Bokko moves up to fourth and Hedrick drops to twelfth.

5:23 pm: The Dutch crowd is singing “We are the Champions” with less than 1200 meters to go.

5:24 pm: After the final lap, Hedrick manages to to climb his way back up to eleventh. And with that, Team USA falls short in their first speed skating event.

5:26 pm: The Netherlands Sven Kramer wins yet another 5000 meters with a new Olympic record. South Korea takes the silver and Russia wins the bronze. Team USA finishes 11th, 12th and 14th with Chad Hedrick, Shani Davis and Trevor Marsicano respectively.

5:30 pm: As the Dutch crowd sings “We are the Champions” along with the marching band, I’m signing off from the Richmond Olympic Oval and the Vancouver Winter Olympics. The U.S. men’s speed skaters will race next on Sunday and Monday in the 500 meters. Tune back in tonight when I’ll blog live from men’s short track speed skating: Apolo Ohno goes for his sixth Olympic medal in the 1500 meters! I’m pretty excited. Short track in famously unpredictable, so it should be a great race. Til then!

This post originally appeared on the Washington Times Communities here on Feb. 13, 2010.

Karla Bruning


Karla Bruning is a race announcer at the TCS New York City Marathon + other major events, TV host for the New York City Triathlon + contributor to Shape, Redbook, Runner's World + other publications. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now it's her job. She's run 8 marathons, 30 halves, 10 triathlons + open water swims. When she's not running, talking about running or writing about running, she's snuggling her baby, spoiling her dog + compulsively traveling.


03 2010

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