The Netherlands will hope to continue its reign of speedskating dominance during the 2014 Winter Olympics' four remaining events.
Through eight competitions, the Dutch have snatched 16 medals, including five first-place finishes. No other country has amassed more than two overall prizes.
Their supremacy persisted on Sunday, when they swept the podium in the ladies' 1,500-meter race. As ESPN Stats & Info noted, the Netherlands holds a slight lead on the overall medal tally almost exclusively on the strength of one discipline.
With four events left, the Dutch will look to rack up more medals as the field tries to generate some equality. Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic can put a thorn in the Dutch's plans to snag another gold in the lone remaining ladies' single event.
There are other strong contenders on the men's side, but a veteran long-track specialist could add one more medal to his illustrious track record. Here are a few favorites to watch in the upcoming speedskating races.
|Speedskating 2014 Winter Olympics Schedule|
|Feb. 18||Men's 10,000 meters||8 a.m.|
|Feb. 19||Women's 5,000 meters||8:30 a.m.|
|Feb. 21||Men's and Women's Team Pursuits (Quarterfinals/Semifinals)||8:30 a..m|
|Feb. 22||Men's and Women's Team Pursuits (Finals)||8:51 a.m.|
Men's 10,000-Meter Race: Bob de Jong, Netherlands
Bob de Jong should have one last run left in him.
The 37-year-old has already accomplished everything imaginable in the sport, winning seven world championships during his career. He has won three Olympic medals in the men's 10,000 meters, claiming gold in the 2006 Turin Games and bronze in Vancouver four years ago.
He has not competed in any other Olympic events, keeping himself fresh for his specialty. Saving his energy is a wise move for the veteran, who has several years on his adversaries.
This could be De Jong's last chance to earn a spot on the podium. It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that his top threats, Sven Kramer and Jorrit Bergsma, don the same colors.
Women's 5,000-Meter Race: Martina Sablikova, Czech Republic
The strongest challenger to the Dutch speedskating dynasty, Sablikova is vying for gold again after earning two first-place finishes in 2010.
Having won 10 gold medals in the World Championships since 2007, the Czech Republic star has emerged as a top competitor.
She dropped out of the 1,500-meter race to focus fully on defending her title in the 5,000 meters. After falling shy of duplicating her gold with a silver finish in the 3,000 meters, all her attention is set on this last run.
Holding the 5,000-meter record with a 6:42.66 time in 2011 shows how well the 26-year-old performs in her top race. Germany will toss two strong contenders at her in Claudia Pechstein and Stephanie Beckert, but Sablikova is the clear woman to beat.
Men's/Women's Team Pursuits: Netherlands
Why pick against the Netherlands right now?
The Dutch have swept the podium in three events so far, showing their terrific depth. If one top contender has an off day, there are a few other guys or gals to pick up the pieces.
In the team pursuit, its strength from top to bottom makes the Netherlands the favorites on the men's and women's side, which would give it two gold medals to close out the Sochi festivities.
For the men, Kramer, Jorrit Bergsma, Jan Blokhuijsen and Koen Verweij will represent their native land. All four have won a medal in Sochi, including Kramer's gold in the 5,000 meters with Blokhuijsen and Bergsma right behind him.
Jorien ter Mors, who captured gold in the 1,500 meters, will lead the ladies beside bronze-winner Lotte van Beek.
Bobby Ilich of the International Business Times explored the Netherland's tight grip of the sport. Part of its dominance stems from a greater interest in speedskating that isn't matched elsewhere.
While many North Americans may think speed skating is boring, the Dutch will say football and baseball are boring. They are clearly the most passionate and engaged supporters of the sport, and they treat it as part of their national identity. Even the King and Queen of the Netherlands are in Sochi, and they were spotted at Adler Arena cheering on the Dutch. (The King even famously proposed to the Queen on ice skates.)
The country's love for skating has shown in Sochi, and it is likely to stay on display for another week.
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