With a week remaining in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, the Netherlands is poised to make history.
The Dutch lead the total medal count with 17 – and all have come in speedskating. The total is one more than the United States and Russia, which boast more than five times the athletes than the Dutch have in Sochi. In fact, the Netherlands’ 41 athletes make it the third-smallest delegation to win a medal during these Olympic Games.
The Dutch skaters have won 16 medals on the long track, one on the short track and have swept the medals in three of the first eight events, including the women’s 1,500 meters on Sunday when Jorien ter Mors, Ireen Wust and Lotte van Beek claimed medals respectively. Merrit Leenstra finished fourth, marking the first time in Olympic history that one country took the top four places in a speedskating event.
But that’s just one of the many records the Dutch will have set or broken by the time the Games end this week.
The Netherlands surpassed East Germany’s 1988 record of 13 speedskating medals during one Winter Games. Its three podium sweeps is half of the total of Olympic speedskating medal sweeps since the competition began in 1924. The Dutch are one gold medal away – they currently have five – from matching the six the Soviets speedskaters won during the 1960 Squaw Valley Games.
With four events remaining – and the Dutch favored in three – there’s little doubt the Dutch will ultimately own that record, too.
"Our target for the whole team was nine medals for all sports," Leenstra said. "This is the best we have ever done in the Winter Olympics."
The Netherlands set the bar high early when Sven Kramer, Jan Blokhuijsen and Jorrit Bergsma swept the podium in the men’s 5,000 meters, the first speedskating event of the Games.
The Dutch – both men and women - have been on fire ever since.
When the speedskating events conclude on Saturday, it’s conceivable that the Netherlands could leave Sochi with as many as 22 speedskating medals. It’s an unfathomable number and one that would make the Dutch the greatest speedskating country the Olympics have ever seen.
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