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Friday, February 22, 2002
Uytdehaage first skater to break 13-minute mark

Associated Press

KEARNS, Utah -- Gianni Romme's legs began to throb -- and he wasn't even halfway through speedskating's most grueling race.

Derek Parra
American Derek Parra, skating just his second 10,000 of the season, couldn't add to his medal haul and wound up 13th.

Jochem Uytdehaage was feeling nice and relaxed, knowing he already had two Olympic medals.

Make it three.

The Flying Dutchman won another gold medal Friday, becoming the first skater to break the 13-minute barrier in the 10,000 meters.

Uytdehaage, who already had won a gold in the 5,000 and a silver in the 1,500, finished a brilliant Olympics by upsetting his countryman Romme with a time of 12 minutes, 58.92 seconds.

"I was more relaxed because I already got gold and silver," Uytdehaage said. "I knew I was a good skater, but no one has seen me on a fast ice rink before. You saw the results."

American Derek Parra, who finished 13th, skated in the pair with Uytdehaage.

"He's the king of these Olympics in speedskating," Parra said. "He looks so efficient. He's enjoying skating. He's on fire."

Romme, who won the 10,000 four years ago, held the old world record of 13:03.40 and was eager to get on the ice for his only Olympic race.

But he faded in the high altitude of the Utah Olympic Oval, settling for silver in 13:10.03. He was actually relieved that he got a medal of any color after the 25-lap marathon.

"It was not good skating," Romme said. "After eight or nine laps, it hit me in the legs and I couldn't hold my technique."

On the other hand, Uytdehaage still had enough energy to take a celebratory jog around the inner part of the oval while carrying a Dutch flag, orange balloons attached to the top of it.

He was cheered by thousands of orange-clad Dutch fans and a band from his homeland, Kleintje Pils ("Small Beer").

Romme applauded, too.

"What Jochem did was really good. I expected that from him," Romme said. "I can't beat him when he's that good."

Uytdehaage's second world record was also the seventh in nine races at the Utah Olympic Oval. That equals the mark for most world records broken in a single games, originally set at Calgary in 1988.

The Salt Lake City Games have a chance to stand alone Saturday in the final speedskating event, the women's 5,000.

Norway's Lasse Saetre won the bronze in 13:16.92.

Jason Hedstrand was the top American finisher, placing 12th but setting a national record of 13:32.99. Parra, skating just his second 10,000 of the season, couldn't add another medal to his 1,500 gold and 5,000 silver. Struggling at the end, he wound up just behind Hedstrand in 13:33.44.

Parra stayed close to Uytdehaage for a few laps but couldn't maintain the blistering pace.

"I knew he'd be the one to beat," Parra said. "I was hoping I could hang on with him, maybe have him pull me to a medal, but it just didn't happen."

Romme pulled off the 5,000-10,000 double at Nagano, but he shockingly failed to make the Dutch team in the shorter race for Salt Lake City.

When Uytdehaage won the 5,000 with a world record last Saturday, Romme couldn't even bear to watch. He refused to turn on the television while resting at his apartment.

Romme's failure at the Dutch trials left him only one chance to win gold. He was on world-record pace at the halfway point but his lap times soared over 32 seconds for all but one of the last 13 laps.

"After my race, I thought I was fifth or sixth," Romme said. "I'm glad I got silver because my race was not what I wanted it to be. It was a fight against myself. It is a big struggle to stay motivated when you still have 15 laps to go."

Uytdehaage, meanwhile, never went above 32 seconds after getting up to speed on his opening lap, appearing to get stronger as the race went on.

"It's a strange feeling," he said. "Gianni said we could break 13 minutes. I said maybe. I wasn't thinking about breaking the world record during my race.

"I will think about it in a few days and say, 'Yeah, that's cool."'

Actually, the two gold-medal races weren't Uytdehaage's favorites. He's more impressed with his second-place finish in the 1,500, when the Dutchman broke the old world record, only to have Parra go even faster.

"I didn't expect to be on the podium," he said. "It's not gold, but the feeling and emotion around Derek, it was an exciting moment."

The Dutch were hoping to sweep the 10,000 medals, a feat they accomplished in Nagano. Once again, however, Bob de Jong was a major disappointment.

Clearly overwhelmed by the oval's 4,675-foot altitude, he finished next-to-last in 13:48.93 -- 35 seconds slower than his personal best.

De Jong had a dismal 30th-place showing in the 5,000 -- another race where he was considered a medal contender.