Winter Olympics: Speed Skating Team Pursuit Live

Sports News - February 28, 2010

VANCOUVER, British Columbia–I’m back at the Richmond Olympic Oval for the final day of long track speed skating competition. The women and men of Team USA will be battling for gold in the Team Pursuit.

First up will be the women’s semifinals where the U.S. will go head to head with Germany for a spot in the gold medal final later today. The women’s team, comprised of Catherine Raney-Norman, Jennifer Rodriguez, Jilleanne Rookard and Nancy Swider-Peltz, Jr., already upset the Canadian favorites with a win in the quarterfinals by .05 seconds.

“I had no idea where we were in the race,” Jilleanne Rookard said. “I heard a lot of cheering for the Canadians so I thought they were ahead by a long shot.”

The Team Pursuit is unique in Olympic racing in that it’s not a relay, but a team skate much like a team ride in cycling. Three skaters work together, drafting off of each other, to get all three members across the finish line first.

“As little as we skate together we have to focus on being in sync with one another,” said Nancy Swider-Peltz, Jr. “This was the one race where we actually pulled it together quite well.”

After the ladies, the American men will face off with Canada in the gold medal final. The U.S. team, comprised of Chad Hedrick, Brian Hansen, Jonathan Kuck and Trevor Marsicano, are guaranteed a medal. The only question is: what color will it be?

Women’s Semifinals

12:30 pm: The Team Pursuit is six laps around the track for the women. The teams start on opposite sides of the track, so skaters could easily have no idea how they are doing compared to the other team. The first semi-final will be Japan versus Poland. The U.S. was ranked seventh coming into the Olympics and will skate against Germany, who was ranked fourth.

12:36 pm: Japan bested Poland moving on the gold medal final. USA is on the ice now, hoping to join them. Skating for the U.S. are Rodriguez, Rookard and Swider-Peltz, Jr.

After an early lead, U.S. is falling behind by .20 seconds. U.S. is looking to make up the gap, and the third German skater slips and falls behind! Can the U.S. capitalize on that? Almost!

The German skater had a problem with her skate, but pulled it togehter and literally dove across the finish on a broken skate. The U.S. finished .06 seconds behind.

Germany will move onto the gold medal final and the U.S. will face Poland for the bronze.

Men’s Finals

Bronze Medal Final

Skating in the bronze medal final will be Norway and the Netherlands, who led by Sven Kramer had been the favorites going into the event. But the Vancouver games have been disappointing for the Dutch superstar. He came into the games favored for three gold medals, but will only walk away with one in the 5000m. He was famously disqualified from the 10,000m, after finishing first, for an illegal lane change. And in the Team Pusuit semifinals were bested by underdogs USA. Now the best Kramer can do is fight for bronze here.

Gold Medal Final

The U.S. men pulled off a huge upset in the semifinals when they beat heavy favorites the Netherlands, led by Sven Kramer. At the third split, they were trailing by 0.56 seconds, but kicked it into high gear and stole the lead along with a spot in the gold medal final.

“My first thought when we crossed the line was, ‘Oh my god we beat the Dutch!’” said Hansen. “And then I thought ‘Oh my god we got a medal!’”

Here they’ll go skate to skate with Canada for the title. Skating for the U.S. will be Hedrick, Hansen and Kuck.

“It’s probably the strongest team we’ve had since I’ve been skating,” said U.S. coach Derek Perra.

Hedrick, who now has four career Olympic medals to his name, has said this might be his last Olympics. Needless to say, he’d love to go out golden.

“To leave here and have a chance to finish my career with a team like this is special and it would be a dream come true for me to leave here with a gold medal tomorrow,” he said.

Hedrick is the only American in the Team Pursuit who has medaled in these games; he won bronze in the 1000m. None of the Canadians have medaled, but as a team they broke the Olympic record twice in the first two rounds of skating. It will truly take a team effort to beat the Canadian favorites.

“In the pursuit it’s all about skating laps, being in sync with each other and not having any flaws,” Hedrick said.

But the U.S. already beat the number one seed Netherlands, so why not Canada too?

“We have a great chance to do something special,” Hedrick said. “A lot of people didn’t even believe in us. We beat the No. 1 seed and we have a chance to win the gold medal.”

1:30 pm: It’s a full house here at the Richmod Olympic Oval. Once again, the crowd is largely colored in red and orange, for hometeam Canada and speed-skating crazed Netherlands, respectively. A brass band, called Freddy Fuggpuckers, is warming up the crowd playing songs like “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

1:51 pm: Norway and Netherlands are on the ice. I can’t decide whose uniforms are uglier. Why do so many countires choose speed skating uniforms that look like shorts over tights?

After the third split the Dutch are in the lead. Same after the sevethn split. The men race eight laps around the track. Kramer is leading the Dutch right now. And the orangle-clad crowd is cheering him and his teammates on.

1:55 pm: Coming into the finish it’s the Dutch winning the bronze medal in new Olympic Record time. The third skater across the line dictates the final time. So it’s very important for teams to work together, trading leads, to pull each other along. It’s actually really elegant to watch.

2:00 pm: Now, it’s USA vs. Canada for the gold medal! It looks like a fast start and at the first split it’s Canada by .30 seconds. The crowd is fired up. At the fourth split, Canada has lengthened their lead. At the halfway point, it’s still Canada by .39. The U.S. is gaining, but Canada is at world record pace. The crowd is on their feet! And Canada cruises across the line in first place! They fell off the world record pace, but managed to pull out the gold medal by .21 seconds and the U.S. takes the silver.

The U.S. put up a valiant battle, but couldn’t best the Canadian favorites who have been setting this track on fire throughout the entire Team Pursuit. With that win, Canada now has their most gold medals ever in Winter or Summer Olympics. While they won’t end the games as the overall medal winners, they have at least topped their best gold medal haul.

The U.S. men are taking a victory lap around the oval with an American flag in tow. They’ve got to be happy with a silver that represents beating the world leading Dutch, who took the bronze. And Chad Hedrick can now retire with five career Olympic medals in two games.

Women’s Finals

2:05 pm: Team USA’s ladies will now face Poland for the bronze medal. Poland was ranked last coming into the competition, so have done very well. But hopefully the U.S. can knock them out for a spot on the podium. Japan and Germany will duke it out for gold.

2:15 pm: They’re off. At the first split, the U.S. has a slight lead. Raney-Norman, a four-four time Olympian is out in front. But at the fifth split, Poland has taken over the lead. And at the seventh split, the U.S. takes back the lead by half a second. They’re skating in sync and at the tenth split have hung onto a half second lead. Oh no, the third skater of Team USA fell off the back and Poland wins the bronze! Poland looks like they can’t believe it. What a close race. The U.S. women have fallen out of the medals, almost quite literally.

2:20 pm: Now it’s Japan vs. Germany in the final. At the fourth split, Japan is in the lead by more than a second. Their gold uniforms looks like space suits. At the halfway mark, Japan is one and a half seconds ahead. But at the eleventh split, Germany is catching up. And Germany pulls it out by .03 seconds! What an upset. Japan was leading by as much as two seconds, but Germany found another gear and win their second consecutive Team Pursuit gold medal.

That’s all for long track speed skating at these Olympic Games. And they finished it off with a bang with two close finals in thew women’s competition.

This post first appeared in The Washington Times Communities on Feb. 27, 2010.

Karla Bruning

About 

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.

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