BEIJING (Reuters) – Sweden’s Nils van der Poel will have his sights set on gold when he skates in the men’s 10,000 metres at the Beijing Olympics on Friday, aiming to break up the Dutch team’s medal streak at the National Speed Skating Oval.
With a gold medal in the 5,000m already under his belt, world record holder van der Poel will be leveraging the skills he has built up over a year spent ultra-running to give him an edge in the longest speed skating distance at the Winter Games.
He has won every single race of the World Cup this season, but faces strong rivals such as defending champion Ted-Jan Bloemen of Canada and Dutchman Jorrit Bergsma, who placed second in Pyeongchang. Patrick Roest of the Netherlands, who won the silver medal in the 5,000m at Beijing, will also be racing.
On Wednesday, Van der Poel weighed in on a developing dispute https://www.reuters.com/article/us-olympics-2022-speedskating/olympics-speed-skating-canadian-ice-maker-denies-pressure-from-dutch-idUSKBN2KE1T0 between the Dutch and Swedish teams outside of the rink.
The 25-year-old spoke of an article published by the Dutch skating association that suggested they had an on-site scientist attempting to influence the ice maker at the oval.
“The race is in two days. Now we are having the press conference. I think it’s my moral obligation to bring it up,” he said, adding that if true, the story was “far from fair play.”
The Dutch Olympic Committee has said that having an ice expert measuring ice temperatures and conditions is standard practice and that they do not attempt to influence the ice maker.
“There is only one party that decides on the ice quality, on the temperature, and that is the (International Skating Union) ISU. There’s nobody else who can influence that. The same goes for the Dutch,” the technical director of the Dutch Olympic Committee Maurits Hendriks said in response to van der Poel’s comments.
Van der Poel’s coach Johan Rojler said the issue was an unwelcome distraction.
“Everything that happens the last couple of days before the race is really important for all participants. For sure, the things that happened the last couple of days affect performances,” he said.
“They (the Dutch skating association) show no regret about the comments made by the lobbyist in the referred article,” he added. “Now we focus on the 10k and then we will see if the story will evolve.”
(Reporting by Sakura Murakami; Editing by Hugh Lawson)