Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics: Norway repeats Olympic team pursuit gold; Japan skater falls
"Of course it’s special to do it again,” said Sverre Lunde Pedersen, the only returning member from the 2018 team pursuit
Norway won its second straight Olympic gold medal in men's team pursuit speedskating, and the Japanese women were headed for another gold as well Tuesday — until one of their skaters crashed on the final turn. The stunning fall by Nana Takagi, who was at the back of a three-skater train and appeared to simply lose her balance, handed the women's team pursuit gold to Canada.
"Coming across the line, I just couldn't believe it," said Valerie Maltais of Canada. Added teammate Isabelle Weidemann, "We are still thinking, is this real?" The United States won its second speedskating medal of the Beijing Games, claiming the men's bronze and denying Dutch star Sven Kramer a 10th career medal in what is likely his final Olympics. Norway repeated its run to the gold medal from four years ago, knocking off the Netherlands in the semifinals and the Russian skaters in the final with a time of 3 minutes, 38.07 seconds. The Russian skaters finished nearly 2 1/2 seconds behind and settled for the silver.
"Of course it's special to do it again," said Sverre Lunde Pedersen, the only returning member from the 2018 team pursuit. "It's with another team, but of course it's really cool. We showed that our team is the best in the world. It's amazing." Even more amazing for Pedersen, who broke his hand last May in a cycling fall and missed the start of the World Cup season. "I was pretty far down during the summer, but my family kept me going," he said "After I got better in August, I started training again and the body was still good." The U.S. used a unique strategy in which 36-year-old Joey Mantia paces the three-skater unit for the entire eight-lap race, instead of swapping out the lead position as most teams do.
The American skaters easily defeated the Dutch in the bronze-medal race with a time of 3:38.80, almost 3 seconds ahead. Mantia, a former inline champion, claimed the first Olympic medal of his career and gave balmy Ocala, Florida, its second speedskating medalist of the Beijing Games. Erin Jackson won gold in the women's 500 meters. "I feel like the weight has been lifted in a sense," said Mantia, who is competing in his third Winter Games.
"Finally I'm an Olympic medalist and it feels really good. Now I can just kind of breathe." Also receiving medals for the Americans were Casey Dawson and Emery Lehman, who skated in the final, and Ethan Cepuran, who took part in the semifinals while Mantia rested. The U.S. missed out on a chance to go for the gold when the Russian skaters won the second semifinal by just 0.43. They went almost 4 seconds faster in the semis than they did in the final. "How unlucky do you gotta be?" Mantia lamented. "The race of their lives. You can't be really sad about that. It's just kind of unlucky." There was even more drama on the women's side.
In the gold-medal race, Japan led Canada by 0.32 seconds with a half-lap to go, seemingly headed for another Olympic title. But Takagi lost her balance and skidded into the padding on the outside of the track. Because the final time isn't recorded until all three skaters cross the line, Canada coasted to a surprising victory. Takagi finally crossed more than 11 seconds behind the Canadians, breaking down in tears as she was consoled by Japan's other two skaters — her sister, Miho, and Ayano Sato. The bronze went to the Netherlands, which beat the Russian skaters with a trio that included individual gold medalists Ireen Wust and Irene Schouten. "I'm feeling good, but we hoped for more than bronze," Wust said. "Japan and Canada do this race really well, so we should be happy."