Speedskating has captured the essence of the Olympics thus far at the 2014 Winter Games thanks to thrilling action, plenty of drama and classic podium domination by the usual suspects.
All of the events so far have been close affairs, although the struggles of the U.S. team have been the main headline. America has yet to gain even one medal so far in Sochi, Russia despite names such as Shani Davis and Heather Richardson in attendance.
Meanwhile, the Dutch have simply dominated en route to completely sweeping three podiums.
The final men's individual event takes place on Day 11 as the big names will partake in the lengthy endurance test known as the 10,000 meters before things give way to the team-pursuit events.
Event: Men's 10,000-meter Race
Date: Tuesday, Feb. 18 at 8 a.m. ET (17:00 Sochi time)
Live TV: None
TV Highlights: NBC Primetime (8 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. CT)
Live Stream: NBC Live Extra
Note: All info courtesy of Sochi2014.com unless otherwise specified.
Athletes to Watch
Lee Seung-hoon, South Korea
If one athlete is going to crash another Dutch party and prevent them from sweeping a jaw-dropping fourth podium, the nod has to go to defending champion Lee Seung-hoon.
He won the event in Vancouver after Sven Kramer was disqualified, but was one of the Games' bigger disappointments in Sochi as he finished 12th in the 5,000-meter race.
He told reporters after the stunning display that his failure to adapt to Sochi was part of the issue, via Patrick Johnston of Reuters:
I was not sick and I had no physical problems. I have been training in France and the Netherlands and now in Russia, and that is three countries in three weeks.
I have not slept well in Russia and I have found it hard to adjust to the climate, but I should have overcome all these things.
I regret the result but now I must try to forget it and get ready for the 10,000m and the team pursuit.
A much better performance is necessary if he is going to take the top prize once more, not to mention reach the podium at all, in a Games where the Dutch have run away with the competition.
Sven Kramer, Netherlands
Sven Kramer is a man on a mission.
Forget that Kramer put on a dominant display in the 5,000 meters to take gold. That is great, but Kramer has his mind on others things:
A very tough decision, but I have decided not to skate the 1500 m race. This to stay focused on my 10000 m and the Team Pursuit event.— Sven Kramer (@SvenKramer86) February 12, 2014
This willingness to drop a shot at another medal (which he probably would have won) should tell fans the entire story.
For the unfamiliar, Kramer was easily the gold-medal winner in the 10,000 meters in Vancouver—except his coach made a baffling mistake that got him disqualified.
Kramer properly took the turn on the inside lane and was supposed to shift to the outside for the next lap. He already had made the adjustment when his coach, Gerard Kemkers, motioned him with one finger to go back, shouting “inside lane!” Two-thirds of the way to a smashing victory, Kramer seemed to hesitate for an instant and then dutifully returned to the inside.
Just like that, a six-second lead and a top-podium finish evaporated forever.
The field is peppered with tough competition, but Kramer should be the main focal point for fans.
Anything other than Kramer getting redemption with a gold is out of the question.
Who wins gold?
This win is now four years in the making. Heck, forget the storyline—Kramer is still head and shoulders above the rest of the field in terms of talent.
That is not to say the field does not stand a chance. Lee Seung-hoon will surely bounce back now that he has had more time to get acclimated to the conditions in Sochi. Bart Swings of Belgium once again figures to be in top form and contend for a medal, too.
But the podium will belong to Kramer. It will not be another Dutch sweep, but Kramer's spot at the top is a sure thing based on his current form and past success in the event.
Gold: Sven Kramer
Silver: Lee Seung-hoon
Bronze: Bart Swings