SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Michel and Ronald Mulder arrived in this world a day later than planned. Their mother, you see, was busy watching speedskating on TV.
Their mother, Leidy Mulder, was due to deliver the twins — who won gold and bronze Monday in the 500 meters at the Sochi Games — on Feb. 26, 1986. She pushed back their induced birth by a day so she could watch the famous Eleven Cities tour.
To some, that makes no sense. But for the Dutch, it makes all the sense in the world to put off whatever you're doing — even giving birth — to watch a race that can only be skated when the ice grows thick enough along a route the covers more than 200 kilometers of frozen canals and lakes of the northern Netherlands.
"My mother said, 'I'm not going. I am going tomorrow," said Ronal Mulder, who won bronze Monday at the Adler Arena. His twin Michel took gold, edging fellow Dutchman Jan Smeekens, who won silver.
Leidy's attitude defines a love of speedskating in the Netherlands that, combined with the country's relative wealth, explains how such a small nation can come to dominate an entire sport. The Dutch have captured seven of nine medals so far on the big oval in Sochi, including a clean sweep of all three golds.
Five years before Ireen Wust won the third of her Olympic titles this week, she already had a state-of-the-art indoor oval named for her near her home town.
It is one of 17 dotted around the nation of 17 million, and the Dutch have at least two more planned. By comparison, the United States — with a population of 315 million — has only two.