Jan 10 (Reuters) - It is just as well endurance is one of Sven Kramer’s best attributes as the Dutch long track speedskater has suffered a painfully protracted wait to right the wrongs of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games.
Skating into Canada as a hot favourite to win three gold medals, Kramer departed with only one and a million questions as to what happened in the 10,000 metres.
The trophy-laden athlete finished first in the longest discipline only to be told - as he coasted down the back straight arms aloft celebrating victory - that he had been disqualified for skating in the wrong lane after being misadvised by his coach.
“All in all, it was pretty hard for me. We expected a lot more than what I came back with from Vancouver,” Kramer, now 27, told Reuters recently.
“I came there as a big favourite for the 5 and 10k and team pursuit and the 5k went well, but the 10k was a disaster for me, my coach, for the whole team. Everybody knows that story.”
That rookie mistake on lap 17 of 25 by one of the sport’s most talented figures was met with little sympathy.
Just a week earlier after taking the 5,000m gold, Kramer asked an American reporter: ‘Are you stupid?” when she requested he give his name to camera and say what event he had won.
‘Who is stupid now?’ rang out the media headlines.
Kramer finished up in Vancouver by helping his Dutch team mates claim bronze in the team pursuit but that was of little consolation to him.
“The team pursuit was strange,” the Heerenveen skater said.
“I think now we have a much better team pursuit team. I was skating there with a lot of guys who never skated team pursuit just because they qualified individually.”
After the ‘Canadian Clanger’ which allowed South Korean Lee Seung-hoon to take 10,000m gold, healing time was required.
Kramer and his coach, Gerard Kemkers, spent some time apart to contemplate their futures.
“It was pretty tough and pretty hard but I never forgot I won a lot of world championships, European championships and World Cups and he was also part of that,” the Heerenveen skater said of Kemkers, who won 5,000m bronze for Netherlands at the 1988 Calgary Games.
”He’s always there, it’s almost like a parent. He made a big mistake and I agreed it and he agreed it and he felt really sorry for it, for sure.
“We made a decision to continue this situation and I‘m really happy now that we continue this situation like we did four years ago.”
The duo’s work together means Kramer once again heads to an Olympics as hot favourite to win gold medals having qualified for the 5,000, 10,000, 1,500m and team pursuit at the Dutch trials last month.
The winner of 13 world single distance championships, six world all round titles, six European championships, Kramer is also the current world record holder at 5,000 and 10,000 metres.
But the Winter Olympics have been somewhat of a bogey event.
He had set the 5000m world record prior to the 2006 Turin Games but had to settle for silver after American Chad Hedrick won the final, while disaster struck in the team pursuit when he stepped on a lane marker in the semi-final and collided with his team mate blowing their gold medal hopes.
The keen cyclist though is older and wiser, and heads to Sochi in imperious form in both his favoured events.
He won the 5,000m World Cup events in Calgary and Salt Lake City in November before smashing the field in the 10,000m event in Kazakhstan, which he won by 12 seconds.
It has only raised expectations at home where speed skating is revered and Kramer’s failure four years ago led to an outcry so large it moved the collapse of the Dutch government off the front pages of newspapers.
“I‘m way more favourite on the 5k than the 10k. I didn’t lose any 5ks this year,” he said of the high expectations.
”10ks are going much better this year than the last couple of years, I put in a lot of training hours especially for the 10k because last year I was doing OK on the 10k but it wasn’t great and I didn’t feel so satisfied after a race.
”I was too tired after a weekend and I didn’t recover enough so we’ve put a lot more focus on those 25 laps and a lot more training hours on the bike.
“All that work is coming out and I feel more confident on the 10k.”
Kramer says he is undecided whether he will skate in the 1,500m and will only make a decision on whether he should skip it and rest up after competing in the 5,000m.
He cannot afford another Olympic failure, by his high standards, with a strong travelling contingent in Russia for the son of Yep, a former long track and marathon speedskater who competed at the 1980 and 1984 Games.
“When I was really young, he was always on training or training camps or doing competitions. Most of the time my mother was taking care of me and my sister alone. That was pretty tough but she handled it pretty well,” he said in an interview organised by sponsor P&G for their ‘Thank You, Mom,’ campaign.
“My family will be there, a lot of friends will be there, there is a big crowd coming from the north of Holland to watch me skate in Sochi.” (Additional reporting by Keith Weir; Editing by John O‘Brien)