Sochi 2014: Canada Rises to The Top For Medals
(CNN) — Michel Mulder may have arrived into the world 10 minutes after twin brother Ronald but he was first when it really mattered in Sochi, as the 27-year-old led home a famous Dutch 1-2-3 in the men’s 500m speed skating on day three of the Games.
With Ronald taking the bronze, the Mulders became the first twins to medal in the same individual Winter Olympics event since American duo Phil and Steven Mahre in Sarajevo in 1984.
There was considerable confusion at the finish as Jan Smeekens, who took silver, raised his hands in triumph at the line — only to eventually by beaten by just one hundredth of a second.
“I just didn’t know,” Mulder told reporters. “Then I saw that I had won and I couldn’t believe it.”
While Mulder screamed in delight, Smeekens struggled to explain the pain of having gold snatched from his grasp.
“It was a kick in the gut,” said a man who initially believed he had won the competition after the scoreboard briefly showed him on top.
“I was so ecstatic that I won, I can’t describe it.”
However, the official timings eventually readjusted to show that Smeekens had been beaten by 0.012 seconds.
“I have never seen it in my career and I don’t think we will see it again,” Smeekens surmised.
“I have to congratulate Michel and Roland. It’s special. I am proud of them, but the disappointment is overwhelming right now.
“It’s silver and I have to be happy with it. Maybe I will be in a couple of hours, days, years — I don’t know. But now it’s really disappointing.”
Speed skating is decided by the fastest time registered by a competitor in two separate races and Mulder started his second race 0.04 seconds behind Smeekens.
The fastest run of the day came from Ronald, whose 34.49 seconds had shot him from sixth place into gold medal position until his younger brother pushed him out in the penultimate heat.
Defending champion Mo Tae Bum finished fourth as South Korea, a major force in Olympic speed skating in recent times, was forced off the podium.
The Asian nation also failed to medal in the men’s 1500m short track even though Victor Ahn, who won three golds for South Korea in the 2006 Games, finished third.
The problem for the country of his birth is that Ahn Hyun-Soo, as he was once known, now competes for Russia, a nationality switch he pushed through three years ago.
The race was won by Canada’s Charles Hamelin, who clinched his third Olympic gold after previous triumphs in the 500m and 5000m relay in 2010.
“It’s not my best distance but I had a really good start and was able to control the race afterwards,” said the 29-year-old.
The Netherlands’ clean sweet in the speed skating, an event where they have taken all three gold medals on offer so far, had enabled them to go top of the medals table midway through Monday.
But they were toppled by the Canadians in the last event of the day as Alex Bilodeau became the first man to win back-to-back Olympic moguls titles.
With three gold medals apiece, Canada lead the Netherlands courtesy of having one more silver.
Mikael Kingsbury — who had led going into the third and final event — took that silver, meaning Canada’s men matched their women’s achievements on Saturday, when sisters Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe finished first and second.
The 26-year-old, who is retiring from the sport to concentrate on other ventures, thanked his compatriots after finishing his career in perfect style.
“There were two other Canadians after me. Every day they push me in training and that’s why I got my best skiing tonight,” he said.
“I’m glad to finish my last Olympics like this. It’s going to be a great retirement.”
Monday could have belonged to Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, the legendary Norwegian who won the 10km biathlon sprint on Saturday to share the all-time record of 12 Winter Olympic medals with compatriot Bjoern Daehlie.
Competing in the biathlon pursuit, Bjoerndalen just failed in his quest to become the most successful Winter Olympian of all time — finishing fourth after his shooting was, quite literally, off target.
The 40-year-old finished just 1.7 seconds outside the medals in a contest won by Martin Fourcade as France celebrated its first gold of the Games.
Bjoerndalen’s speed was good but he missed targets in the second prone and both standing shooting.
“I think I had the chance to win. When I missed the shot, I knew that was the end for me,” said Bjoerndalen. “I was not strong enough on the shooting.”
“On the final leg, I tried to speed up but I realized the competition was too strong and I should have done that earlier.”
The biathlete has four move events to try to eclipse the retired Daehlie, 46, whose medals all came in cross country skiing.
The first gold of the day came in the super-combined gold, as Maria Hoefl-Riesch defended her Olympic title with a total time of 2 minutes 34.62 seconds from her downhill and slalom runs.
She finished four-tenths of a second ahead of Austrian Nicole Hosp and American favourite Julia Mancuso, who led after the downhill.
“The hill was steep at the start, which I found especially difficult. It didn’t feel great, but I skied fast enough,” said Hoefl-Riesch, 29.
The 29-year-old, who had been fifth in the standings prior to her slalom, sunk to her knees in celebration as Mancuso, the last woman who could catch her, was only fast enough for bronze.