Dutch have high hopes as Winter Olympics open
The opening ceremony for the 2014 Winter Olympics took place on Friday evening with short-track skater and European champion Jorien ter Mors carrying the Dutch flag.
Ter Mors is the first Dutch woman to lead an Olympic team since snowboarder Nicolien Sauerbreij in 2002. She competes in the short-track 500 metres on Monday but will also take part in the 1,500 metres long-track event.
Some 30 of the 41 strong Dutch squad were in the procession, but not medal hot favourites Sven Kramer, who takes to the ice on Saturday, or Irene Wüst.
Wüst, defending 1,500 metre champion, is once again a favourite for the 1,500 and 3,000 metre race and has already been dubbed ‘queen of the Olympics’.
‘It was the same before so I’m used to it. I like to be favourite. It makes me want to do even better’, she told the Dutch media earlier. After an injury scare in Inzell two weeks ago, Wüst is confident: ‘I have no bumps or bruises and I’m ready to go.’
Kramer, the world record holder in the 5,000 and 10,000, will be hoping to avenge his disqualification in the 2010 Vancouver games 10,000 metres which came after his coach told him to change lanes at the wrong moment.
Kramer will be the first Dutch speed skater to spring into action on Saturday, not the best of starting positions as competitors Jorrit Bergsma and Jan Blokhuijsen will then have a clear time objective to beat.
Mark Tuitert is also defending his 1,500 metre Olympic title. ‘What makes speed skating so exciting is that it is all down to 10ths and 100ths of a second,’ says diehard fan Johan van Buren. ‘One bad changeover and you’ve had it.’
The Netherlands took 34 athletes to the Vancouver winter games and won more long-track speed skating medals than any other nation – three gold, one silver and three bronze.
‘Our goal is to improve on Vancouver. And considering our current level of form, that is a realistic goal,’ Arie Koops, who is in charge of the Dutch Winter Olympics efforts, told news agency AP. In total, 12 gold medals for speed skating are up for grabs in Sochi.
The final individual skating event is on February 19 when Ireen Wüst and Yvonne Nauta are in the women’s 3,000 metres race. The pursuit races take place on February 21 and 22 and the Dutch team are hot favourites to win both titles.
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