SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Eric Heiden and Sven Kramer are perhaps the two greatest speedskaters of all time. Only one of them has an Olympic medal haul to match his reputation — so far.
The American has a perfect five gold medals from one Olympics, the 1980 Lake Placid Games, while the Dutchman has just a single gold from two Olympics, and is anxiously counting on Sochi to make amends.
Blame it on "that moment," as Kramer delicately framed his Olympic blunder for the ages four years ago at the Vancouver Games.
With the 10,000 meters as good as won four years ago, his coach inexplicably pointed him toward the wrong lane on a crossover and Kramer, just as inexplicably, followed that road to Olympic ruin.
Now, Kramer has 15 days to turn that failure into the redemption story of the games, starting with Saturday's 5,000 meters, where he is the defending champion.
"There is a little more pressure these Olympics. That is a fact," Kramer said Wednesday with a sense of understatement.
Kramer's world championship record is unsurpassed, with 6 allround titles and 13 single distance titles. For speedskating though, there is only one place to transcend the sport, and that is the Olympics.
"Sven Kramer has not been able to achieve that," said former teammate, Olympic medalist and expert commentator Erben Wennemars.
As a result, nothing less than three gold medals will satisfy Kramer in Sochi — the two long-distance titles and the team pursuit race.
And at 27, it could be Kramer's last chance to make an indelible Olympic mark.
From the start, Kramer and the Olympics have been unhappy bedfellows. When he went to Turin as a teenager, a first gold was within his grasp in the team pursuit, but he clipped a lane marker and crashed out, taking his team with him.
But that slip pales into insignificance alongside his Vancouver blunder in the 10,000.