Netherlands’ Kramer defends gold in the men’s 5000m

SOCHI, Russia — Sven Kramer of the Netherlands set an Olympic record and defended his title in the men’s 5,000 meters Saturday, winning gold with a time of 6 minutes, 10.76 seconds.

With the king, queen and prime minister of his country cheering him on, the 27-year-old Dutchman flew around the big oval with amazingly consistent laps, all falling within a range of eight-tenths of a second. He easily beat the Olympic mark of 6:14.60 he set while winning gold at Vancouver four years ago.

The powerful Dutch team swept the medals. Jan Blokhuijsen took the silver and Jorrit Bergsma claimed the bronze.

Kramer is determined to sweep the two longest speedskating races and make up for a series of Olympic flops that have marred his otherwise brilliant career — most notably at the Vancouver Games, where he made an inexplicable error in the 10,000. Directed into the wrong lane by his coach, he was disqualified in a race he should have won easily.

There’s more. As a teenager during the 2006 Winter Games, Kramer clipped a lane marker during team pursuit and took out his heavily favored squad. There were more problems in the pursuit four years ago, when some poor teamwork cost the Dutch another shot at gold.

Only three gold medals will do in Sochi.

One down, two to go.

“What can you say? We could never have hoped for such a great result,” Dutch King Willem-Alexander said. “That Sven was able to deliver despite such pressure, it leaves me speechless. What can you say, such a great Olympic record.”

Blokhuijsen earned the silver in 6:15.71. Bergsma set a quicker pace than Kramer in the early going, but he couldn’t maintain the speed. He settled for bronze in 6:16.66.

Seventeen-year-old Emery Lehman of Oak Park was the top American finisher, placing 16th in his Olympic debut. Jonathan Kuck of downstate Champaign was 19th, one spot ahead of Patrick Meek of Chicago.

Kramer’s world championship record is unsurpassed, with six all-around titles and 13 distance titles. But his legacy as one of the best ever will only be complete if he can make up for his Olympic disappointments.

He stepped on the ice while a Russian band — complete with four pompom-waving cheerleaders — entertained the crowd during the second resurfacing break. The Dutch-dominated crowd roared when they spotted their favorite glide around the turn. He returned their adulation with a big smile and wave.

Turning on his game face, Kramer pumped his fist confidently toward the Dutch coaching contingent when he came around the oval again.

The draw was a bit of a disadvantage for Kramer, who skated in the 10th of 13 pairings. His closest challengers all went after him, which meant they would know how fast they needed to go for gold.

But Kramer put up a time no one came close to touching.

Emery Lehman, 17, of Oak Park placed 16th in his Olympic debut, making him the top American finisher in the men’s 5,000-meter speedskating race at the Adler Arena Skating Center during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. Associated Press
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