Pyeongchang 2018

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Fanatical support and a fond farewell – five reasons to follow speed skating in PyeongChang

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 22:  (L to R) Koen Verweij, Jan Blokhuijsen and Sven Kramer of the Netherland celebrate winning the gold medal during the Men's Team Pursuit Final A Speed Skating event on day fifteen of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at  at Adler Arena Skating Center on February 22, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Speed skating ranges in distance from 500 metres – in essence the sport’s sprint – to a gargantuan 10,000m. But there’s something for everyone in a discipline which has become an Olympic Winter Games favourite

The orange army

You can barely help but be impressed with the Dutch obsession for speed skating. The nation hero-worships its stars on the ice, and they usually deliver for an expectant nation. At Sochi 2014, the success was phenomenal. The Netherlands won 23 of the 36 medals available in speed skating. As their athletes battle it out for medals, their fans filled the stadiums bedecked in orange, hooping and hollering as their men and women on ice tend to lead lap after lap of each race.

Davis’ potential farewell


PyeongChang 2018 could well be Shani Davis’ last outing on the ice, although he has long hit back at suggestions he is going to retire. The coming Olympic Winter Games will be his fifth and the 35-year-old American has more than made his mark. Davis lays claim to being the first black athlete to win an individual gold medal at a Winter Games, earning 1000 metre gold at Turin 2006 and regaining that title at Vancouver 2010. He is also something of a superstar in the aforementioned Holland.

American history maker


Speed skating lays claim to the only clean sweep in history at a single Winter Games. That achievement belongs to former American skater Eric Heiden, who was one of the stars of Lake Placid 1980, winning gold over the 500m, 1000m, 1500m, 5000m and 10000m. It was an astonishing feat of endurance and dominance in just nine days. He retired from skating shortly after the Games and went on to become a professional cyclist who competed in the Tour de France.

Home support


The home crowd are likely to match the Dutch for volume when it comes to the shortest of the sport’s events. Lee Sang-hwa is bidding for a hat-trick of Olympic titles in the 500 metres. The 28-year-old, who was born in the Republic of Korea’s capital Seoul, likes to unwind from the ice by playing computer games and listening to music.

The marathon men


In many ways, the greatest prestige in speed skating circles goes to the winner of the 10,000m, for many the blue-riband event of the sport. At Sochi 2014, Jorrit Bergsma led home a Dutch clean sweep of the medals, at an impressive average speed of 30mph.


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