Kramer vs. Himself
Sven’s stumble hands 10,000-metre gold medal to Lee
RICHMOND, B.C. (AP) — World champion speedskater Sven Kramer lost an Olympic gold medal with an embarrassingly simple mistake on Tuesday which gave the 10,000metre title to South Korea’s Lee Seung-hoon.
Kramer, the world-record holder, was on pace for his second gold of the Vancouver Games, and actually finished four seconds ahead of Lee. But the Dutchman was disqualified for failing to switch lanes properly on the 17th of 25 laps, apparently on incorrect instructions from his coach.
Kramer had raised his arms in triumph as he crossed the lane, but later threw his glasses away in disgust. He’d suspected there was a problem before the finish.
Lee won with a time of 12 minutes 58.55 seconds, breaking the Olympic record of 12:58.92 set by Jochem Uytdehaage of the Netherlands at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. The silver went Ivan Skobrev of Russia (13:02.07). Defending Olympic champion Bob de Jong, Kramer’s teammate on the Netherlands team, ended up with bronze (13:06.73). No Canadian skaters were in the event.
“I expected to be on the podium but not for the gold,” Lee said. “I could not have realized that this would have happened. Sven Kramer is a great skater.”
Skobrev empathized with Kramer, saying the pressures on athletes at the Olympics can help produce such mental errors during competition.
“It’s not only pressure for your legs and your body, it’s also pressure for your head,” said Skobrev. “Did you see how many Dutch were in the ice rink today? Everybody was trying to help Sven. I really feel sorry for him. Today my medal was bronze. I’m happy with a silver but I don’t think it’s right.”
Kramer had dominated the 5,000, setting an Olympic record, and seemed certain to become the fourth athlete from his speedskating-mad nation to sweep the two longest events on the men’s program.
The error came on the 17th lap as Kramer came off the first turn in the inside lane, which meant it was time for him to shift over to the outside by the end of the back straight. In longtrack speedskating, competitors switch lanes each time they go down the backstretch to even up the distance they cover. WEST VANCOUVER, B.C. — Canadian Ashleigh McIvor is the first Olympic women’s ski-cross champion.
The 26-year-old native of Whistler, B.C., led from start to finish to win gold Tuesday at the Vancouver Winter Games, where ski cross is making its Olympic debut.
Hedda Berntsen of Norway won silver at Cypress Mountain while Marion Josserand of France took the bronze.
Kelsey Serwa of Kelowna, B.C., just missed making the final to finish fifth. Julia Murray of Whistler, B.C., finished 12th while Danielle Poleschuk of Winnipeg finished 19th under grey skies at Cypress Mountain.
McIvor is the defending world champion and won a World Cup silver medal on the Cypress course just over a year ago. She is ranked second in the World Cup standings. She said she felt ready to race. “I just felt really comfortable, and at home, obviously, and it’s a good atmosphere for me,” she said. “I spent way too much time bracing for the nerves that I thought were going to hit in the last few years, and it never really did. I was pretty calm the whole way through, and just looking forward to each run. I was like, ‘Let me go, let me go.”’
Top-ranked Ophelie David of France crashed in the quarterfinals.
The high-drama event features four skiers navigating a course with bumps, jumps and turns in a race to the finish line.
There were some spectacular crashes on Tuesday.
Action was temporarily halted after Russia’s Yulia Livinskaya crashed hard during the first heat of the elimination round.
Livinskaya, who qualified last in the 32-skier field, lost her balance in the air and landed awkwardly, sliding another five metres on her side before coming to a stop. Medics attended to her immediately.
In qualifying, Ruxandra Nedelcu of Romania, who trains in North Vancouver, crashed heavily coming off the last jump and was also taken off the hill on a stretcher with an apparent leg injury. She gave a thumbs-up to the crowd as she was taken away. VANCOUVER — Canadian curler Cheryl Bernard has stolen her way to the No. 1 seed at the Vancouver Olympics.
Bernard picked up four steals against 19-year-old British skip Eve Muirhead Tuesday en route to a 6-5 win. With the victory, the Calgary skip improved her round-robin record at the Winter Games to 7-1 and assured her rink top seed for Thursday’s semifinal playoffs.
“ That was again one of our better games, up in the top couple of per cent,” Bernard said after the win.
Then, in what may be a terrifying realization for the rest of the field, she added: “I still think there’s room, I think we can improve a little bit more.”
Bernard, a 43-year-old from Calgary, will open the playoff round against two-time Olympic silver medallist Mirjam Ott of Switzerland on Thursday. Bernard beat Ott 5-4 in her Games debut with a harrowing draw in the 10th end.
The loss was the first of three in a row for Ott to start the tournament, though she rebounded by winning her next five contests.
Bernard said she, third Susan O’Connor, second Carolyn Darbyshire, and lead Cori Bartel expect to be in a tough match against the Swiss team Thursday.
“ We’re going to have to play like we’ve been playing, even a little bit better,” she said.
Tuesday’s game ended similarly to the first four Bernard played at these Games — she won it with her final stone, showing a flair for the dramatic that’s earned her the nickname “Last Shot.”
But the match was hardly close throughout, as Muirhead struggled to find her feel for the rock.
The British skip missed routine draws with her hammer in the second, seventh and eighth ends, allowing Canada to steal points all three times.
Muirhead charged back to score two in the ninth to cut Bernard’s lead to 5-4, then stole a point in the 10th to force an extra frame.
But that’s where the Olympic dream ended for the three-time world junior champion, who closed out the tournament losing her final five decisions after starting 3-1.
“ We missed a few crucial draws out there that kind of slipped ... but I think we definitely got our heads held high and went out there and fought for two in the ninth end,” she said.
“But Cheryl’s playing fantastic out there and I’m sure she’s going to be the team to beat.”
As for the woman Bernard will meet in the semifinal, Ott said she’s feeling confident after opening
McIvor was Canada’s first skicross racer to secure a spot on the Olympic freestyle team — which served as both a blessing and a curse for McIvor. She was thrilled to have a Games spot locked up well in advance, but the early nomination only made the wait that much more difficult.
Tuesday’s performance made it worth the wait.
A natural daredevil, McIvor began skiing down her parents’ carpeted steps at age two. As a child, she spent her summers traversing rugged terrain on her bike, the tournament with losses to Canada, China and Sweden.
“ We knew we had a hard start and we had very close losses and we were still confident,” Ott said. “It was tough for us to keep going on but we did it well and I’m proud of my team.”
Ott said she has played Bernard in tournaments before and watched a few of her games.
She said it will be hard enough taking on the Canadian rink — never mind the boisterous fans.
“I hope it will be a good game and a tough game and that there are some people cheering a little bit for us,” she said.
The bad news for Ott might well be that the three teams she lost to in the round-robin are the three in the playoff round alongside her.
Sweden and China will meet in the other tournament semifinal.
“Our goal coming here was to be in the playoffs so we are there now so we’re very happy with that,” Swedish skip Anette Norberg said after a 10-6 win over Japan that improved her team’s record to 6-2. and her winters blazing down the ski hill.
She became so good at both that she routinely skied with and against boys at the Whistler Mountain Ski Club, and raced them on her bike. And she won — a lot.
That combination of natural skill and competitive fire made ski-cross the perfect sport for McIvor, whose promising alpine ski career was cut short at 16 when she broke her leg at the national championships at Sun Peaks. Following a difficult twoyear recovery, McIvor was drawn to ski cross after watching it on video.
After winning her first-ever skicross race seven years ago — and subsequently qualifying for the X Games — McIvor was hooked. Sponsors and ski companies lined up right away, recognizing that the combination of movie-star beauty and raw talent made her an instant superstar.
She enjoyed plenty of success in X Games, and spent time extreme skiing in North America. But it wasn’t until 2006 that McIvor began realizing the Olympics might be in her future.
Amid rumours that ski cross would be added to the Olympic program, McIvor wrote an essay for her University of British Columbia English class on why it should be a Winter Games sport — comparing it to BMX Racing, which was about to make its Summer Olympic debut in Beijing.
Ski cross gained entry with the International Olympic Committee’s approval in November 2006. After being one of the first athletes named to Canada’s national team, McIvor made reaching the Games one of her primary goals, cutting her 2007-08 World Cup season short to have a serious shoulder injury repaired.