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Dutch speedskaters ride an orange cloud at oval

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 14, 2014 at 8:33 am •  Published: February 14, 2014
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SOCHI, Russia (AP) — The seats at Adler Arena told it all from the start.

Most are a hot orange, the color of the all-conquering Dutch speedskaters, who go into the second half of their Olympic program riding an orange cloud.

Their biggest expectations are already exceeded with a medal haul of 12 with from six races, an average of two skaters on every medal stand. There have been two sweeps and not once have the Dutch been shut out of the podium.

"We are certainly not finished yet," Ireen Wust said.

And she should know. She won the 3,000 meters during the opening weekend, added silver in the 1,000 and is the big favorite for the 1,500 title Sunday.

She rattles off an impressive list of extremely realistic expectations.

"Over 10K, I am looking at an orange medal stand," adding three more medals, with 5,000 champion Sven Kramer leading the way. "In the 1,500, I will be going for gold. And the team pursuit, too, they can certainly go for gold." Kramer and Wust hope to complete a golden triple during the closing team events.

During the first week, the Dutch monarchs were on hand to lead the army of orange-clad fans with their crazy hats and funny goggles. From now on, the skaters will have to do it without royal support, but with the backing of the popular oompah band Kleintje Pils, which is set to make its entry Saturday.

The United States was supposed to give the Dutch a run for their money, especially in the shorter races of the first week, but it has not even won a medal so far.

"We're getting beat and the Dutch are just sitting deeper and pushing harder. That's it. They are just better," said Kip Carpenter, a U.S. team coach.

No one need be overly optimistic to see another eight medals being celebrated at the raucous Holland Heineken House, including four gold. And instead of going for double digits as an ultimate ambition, expectations are now for 20 medals. Such a total would top the 13 by East Germany at the 1988 Calgary Games.

That total should also propel the Dutch into the top five of the medal standings. That compares to eight four years ago.

The Dutch always were good on skates, but this showing surprises even themselves. The nation has 17 covered tracks; an outdoor marathon across 11 cities that thrills so many hearts of the 17 million people; hundreds of thousands of youth hoping to one day emulate Kramer and Wust; and millions watching the big events on TV.

Perhaps the only nation matching the Dutch domination in a sport is Germany in luge at the Sochi Games, where it is 4-for-4 when it comes to gold but added only a silver for 5-for-12 overall.

Sprint coach Gerard van Velde said the Dutch had better enjoy their Sochi success now because things can always change quickly.

"You can lose it in a flash," he said. "Now we are raking in the records, but it can be completely different in four years' time."

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Follow Raf Casert on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/rcasert


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