GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA – Canada’s Ted-Jan Bloemen captured the gold medal in the men’s 10,000 meters speedskating at Gangneung Oval on Thursday night in Olympic record time.
Bloemen, the world record-holder at the distance, clocked a winning time of 12 minutes, 39.77 seconds to break the mark set Jorrit Bergsma just minutes earlier.
Bergsma earned the silver medal, with Italy’s Nicola Tumolero taking home the bronze.
The 31-year-old Bloemen, who was born in Leiderdorp, Netherlands, also claimed the silver in the 5,000 here on Sunday. Bloemen’s father was born in New Brunswick, making it possible for the younger Bloemen to skate for Canada.
“It’s going to take a while for all this to sink in,” Bloeman stated. “It’s hard to say what’s going through my mind. It’s been very emotional. It’s the biggest stage I’ve ever been on and to win here is the highest you can get.”
Bloemen was matched against Tumolero in the fifth race of the evening. Bloemen’s winning time was more than three seconds off his world mark of 12:36.30, set in Salt Lake City back in 2015.
“It was a tough race,” Bloemen commented. “I had good rhythm and momentum, I just had to keep it going. This is the biggest race of my life and I had to keep pushing to the finish line and I did so.”
Bergsma’s time of 12 minutes, 41.98 seconds had taken more than two seconds off his own previous Olympic record of 12:44.45, set when he won the gold medal at the Sochi Games four years ago.
The 32-year-old native of Oldeboorn, Netherlands, established a blistering pace from the start against Italy’s Davide Ghiotto, but it wasn’t enough to retain the gold.
Tumolero’s time of 12:54.32 was good enough by more than a second to make the podium over South Korea’s Lee Seung-hoon, who was fourth in 12:55.54.
Lee, cheered on by the raucous support of his countrymen in the crowd, overtook Germany’s Moritz Geisreiter with approximately five laps to go earlier in the third race.
Lee’s time was a personal best and he credited the support he received for pushing him along.
“I didn’t expect to get that record,” Lee said. “I think the secret was a lot of cheers from the crowd. I’ve been in the Netherlands before and competed against Dutch athletes where it has been just as noisy, but this time the cheers were only for me and I was touched.”
Japan’s Ryosuke Tsuchiya did not factor in the medals, but did set a national record at the distance in 13:10.3, while coming in 10th.
Tsuchiya, who is from Nakanojo, Gunma Prefecture, went up against Belgium’s Bart Swings in the first race of the evening and fell behind fairly quickly.
The 23-year-old Tsuchiya was seventh in the 10,000 at the world single distance championships last season.
The 10,000 is the longest distance contested at the Olympics, a grueling race that consumes 25 air-sapping laps.