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Olympics-Speed skating-Fastest Swede aims to thwart Dutch for gold in men’s 5000m

Randy Mancini 13 Feb 5
Speed Skating - Training
2022 Beijing Olympics - Speed Skating - Training - National Speed Skating Oval, Beijing, China - February 3, 2022. Athletes of the Netherlands in action during training. REUTERS/Susana Vera

February 5, 2022

By Sakura Murakami

BEIJING (Reuters) – Sweden may be one of the most decorated nations in Winter Olympic sports with 158 podiums but they have not medalled in the men’s 5000m speed skating in over 30 years.

That may change on Sunday in Beijing.

Swede Nils van der Poel is favourite after breaking the world record for the 5000m two months ago in Salt Lake City, shaving 0.30 seconds off the previous record to complete the distance in six minutes 01.56 seconds.

“He’s really confident,” said van der Poel’s coach Johan Roljer at the National Speed Skating Oval on Saturday.

“He knows that if he does the work and if he prepares so that he is on his highest level, which he is right now, he knows no one has ever skated faster than him.”

But the path to gold will not be easy, with a host of other contenders ready to snatch the top prize.

Dutchman Patrick Roest, who has the season’s second best record, will not let him go easily for one.

“What he has done this year is just incredible, skating the world record in 5k,” Roest said on Thursday.

“He’s my biggest rival and I think he’s the biggest (competitor) for the gold because he won every 5k each part of this year. I’m going to try my best to beat him but, of course, that’s going to be very difficult.”

Roljer is also wary of Roest.

“He did a good race in Salt Lake City when Nils broke the world record, and he is really motivated to show a good result in a big competition where it really matters,” he said.

Previous world record holder Ted-Jan Bloemen of Canada is also in the mix. He won silver in the event at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on Bloemen, however, and he has struggled with the disruption to his training regimen.

“I wouldn’t say I have that same confidence going into this Olympics,” he told Canadian media this week.

“But you know, I feel like I’ve done everything I could to prepare, and it’s been going well.”

(Reporting by Sakura Murakami; Editing by Ken Ferris)