Canadian speedskater Ted-Jan Bloemen wins gold in men's 10,000 metres
Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, February 15, 2018 12:22PM EST
GANGNEUNG, Korea, Republic Of -- The man considered unbeatable had yet to cross the finish line, yet Ted-Jan Bloemen was already crying with the knowledge he was an Olympic gold medallist.
The long-track speedskater won Canada's first ever gold in the men's 10,000 metres Thursday. He did so in an Olympic record time of 12 minutes 39.77 seconds, well ahead of Dutch rival Sven Kramer.
The 31-year-old Bloemen moved from the Netherlands to Calgary four years ago to compete for Canada.
"I had a dream," Bloemen said. "And I always felt from deep inside that I was able to do something special on the ice, but I was never able to show it. I had to find a different way to do it because I found I hit a wall in my career.
"I found that different way and got way more than I ever would have hoped."
Bloemen's gold was his second medal of the games. He took silver Tuesday in the 5,000 metres behind Kramer.
Dutchman Jorrit Bergsma, the 2014 victor in the 10k, briefly held the Olympic record with a time of 12:41.98 until Bloemen lowered it in the next pairing.
The reigning world champion in the 10k, Kramer wanted the Olympic title in the distance to enrich an already stellar career. He'd finished second to his teammate Bergsma in 2014 and was disqualified in 2010.
Skating in the final pairing, Kramer found himself almost two seconds off the pace midway through the race. That realization seemed to drain the star as he faded in the final laps to ultimately finish sixth, while Bloemen was moved to tears as he sat on the warmup track padding at the Gangneung Oval.
"It's really hard to put that moment into words," Bloemen said. "It's more feelings and emotion that run through your body and your mind at that point.
"It's just a really slow realization that you're becoming Olympic champion. Imagine that feeling. It's really, really, incredible."
He and coach Bart Schouten hugged when Kramer still had 2k to go in the race.
"He did what a lot of people thought was impossible," Schouten said. "He beat Sven Kramer."
Bergsma took silver and Italy's Nicola Tumolero of Italy, who was paired with Bloemen, earned bronze.
Bloemen expressed disappointment at not having more in the tank in the 5k, when he beat Norway's Sverre Lunde Pederson in their pairing by a mere blade tip for silver.
But Bloemen legs churned steadily like a metronome Thursday. He turned over lap after lap at a pace just over 30 seconds. He brought it home skating three of his last four laps sub-30.
He flung his arms in the air with joy after crossing the line, knowing his time would be tough for Kramer to beat.
Since stepping off the plane June 3, 2014 at the Calgary International Airport, Bloemen obtained his Canadian citizenship and married his Dutch wife Marlinde in a ceremony in Calgary.
He also set world records in both the 5,000 and 10,000 metres.
"He had a bit of a reputation too when he came, so I wasn't sure how easy it was to work with him," Schouten said.
"The reception in Canada was so great. He felt so welcome by the team and his teammates, I think it helped him be a better teammate and feel loved and give back to the team."
Toronto's Jordan Belchos finished fifth with a career-best time of 12:59.51. Belchos says when he races the 10k he feels like a lobster being brought to a boil.
"The water is just warm and it feels nice at the beginning. It feels like you're skating really well and then it gets hot and it's hard to keep executing the technical things right," he explained.
"That's the challenge the last half when my body really doesn't want to do the technical things I'm trying to make it do. Getting cooked."
Despite that toll on his legs, Bloemen jumped onto the top step of the podium in the post-race ceremony.
"When you win, you always have that little bit of extra energy and I think that's the right time to release it," he said.