BEIJING (Reuters) – Sweden’s Nils van der Poel shaved more than two seconds off his own world record time to win the men’s 10,000 race at the Beijing Olympics and claim his second gold of the Games in a breathtaking finish on Friday.
The 25-year-old sped ahead in ever-faster lap times to cross the finish line in 12 minutes and 30.74 seconds, smashing the previous record of 12:32.95 that he had set in the Netherlands a year ago.
He started strongly and whizzed around the oval widening the gap between himself and Dutchman Patrick Roest, building up a five-second lead.
He moved ahead of the Olympic record by the 3,000m mark, and by the midway point, Van der Poel had a gaping nine-second lead over Roest and he broke his own record time in the final laps of the 10k before skating a blistering last lap that was his fastest of the race.
He crossed the finish line with a look of relief, waving to the cheering crowds.
“I could not have wished for a better way to win gold and break the world record. It feels great,” Van der Poel said after his race.
“I felt like, with eight laps to go, ‘I got the gold in control, now I just need to not fuck it up’, which I almost did with two and a half laps to go,” he said with a chuckle, saying that he pushed his right blade too far out at one point and almost stumbled.
But with four laps to go, “it was like, now I can also go for the world record,” he said.
Roest, who also finished behind Van der Poel in the 5,000m, won silver in 12:44.59, while Italian Davide Ghiotto crossed the finish in 12:45.98 to take bronze.
“You don’t expect Nils to go two seconds under the world record. I just tried to give my best and I just have to see what Nils is doing… It’s very impressive what he’s doing,” Roest said.
“He breaks the world record again on a lowland track, that’s just amazing, you have to have respect for that.”
Van der Poel’s gold marks the first medal in the event for Sweden in 34 years.
Defending champion Ted-Jan Bloemen of Canada watched his own Olympic record from Pyeongchang smashed by van der Poel, finishing over half a minute behind him in eighth place.
Dutchman Jorrit Bergsma, who won gold in Sochi and silver in Pyeongchang, also missed out on a medal as he slowly fell behind the pace set by compatriot Roest.
“I’m really disappointed,” Bergsma said after his race. “I don’t know why… I was skating really good during training, I was feeling good, but I wasn’t able to put it on the ice today.”
(Reporting by Sakura Murakami; Editing by Shri Navaratnam, Andrew Cawthorne and Hugh Lawson)