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Kjeld Nuis wins gold in men's 1500m, continuing the Netherlands' dominance

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Kjeld Nuis wins gold in men's 1500m, continuing the Netherlands' dominance

The Netherlands continued its dominance of speed skating, winning two more medals in the men's 1500.

Going into the men’s 1500m, the Dutch had won the last six of nine speed skating medals in PyeongChang. They can now say eight out of ten. Kjeld Nuis won the gold with a time of 1:44.01. Countryman Patrick Roest won silver with a time of 1:44.86, and South Korean Min Seok Kim took home the bronze.

Even though Netherland’s Patrick Roest was skating in the fourth pair, he put up a fast time of 1:44.86. Halfway through his race, he had a time of 50.06. His time held through the first 13 pairs until his countryman Nuis raced. It wasn’t total disappointment, as his time held for the silver medal.

"My only international race was a month ago and I finished 14th," the 22-year-old said. "To finish second here is unbelievable."

Reigning world champion Kjeld Nuis made his Olympic debut after just missing out on the Sochi team. Nuis came out dominant. Heading into the final lap, he was almost two seconds ahead of lead pace. He slowed on the final lap, like most of the competitors, but he had built such a lead he still crossed the finish line .85 seconds ahead of the lead time. His time held up as no one in the final pairs could top his time.

"Last year I was on the same track, I was world champion twice in one weekend (he took the 1000m and 1500m titles at the World Single Distances Championships). This was better than last year. You can feel my heartbeat, it's crazy." Nuis said.

South Korean Min Seok Kim put in a career race in front of his home crowd. He won two gold medals at the Lillehammer 2016 Youth Olympic Winter games, so there was some hope he'd skate well in PyeongChang. The 18-year-old started slow behind the pace but was able to finish strong as the crowd erupted in moral support. He finished in a time of 1:44.93. The margin between second and third was just .07 seconds. Though Kim is considered a rising star in the sport, this high of a finish was unexpected. It was South Korea's second medal of the Games. 

Kim was critical of himself after the race, "I had a sort of dissatisfaction in my performance but with the home crowd cheering me on, I was able to do my best."

Koen Verweij lost the gold medal by .003 seconds in Sochi. Today, he took on a rising star in Allan Dahl Johansson. Verweij started strong but slowed once his racing partner of Johansson crashed.  Johansson caught an edge and crashed before the halfway mark. Without someone to push the pace with, Verweij became a non-contender, crossing the line at a disappointing 1:46.26.

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In Sochi, Poland’s Zbigniew Brodka beat Verweij to win gold by .003 seconds, the smallest margin in speed skating history. Brodka faced off against American Brian Hansen. They were ahead of the lead through the 300m. At the halfway mark, they were still inside the time. The pair were averaging just over 26 second laps. With one lap to go, however, Hansen and Brodka lost the pace. They both finished outside the top three. Hansen crossed at 1:46.44—two seconds behind his best time this year.

The final pair came down to American Joey Mantia and Sverre Lunde Pedersen. Pedersen had already won the gold medal in the 5000m distance. After 300m they were behind the lead pace. The pair were well behind the lead at the halfway mark.

Going into the final lap, they were 1.72 seconds off the pace. Pederson looked like he could have picked up speed down the stretch but stumbled on a curve. It became a race for the bronze medal down the stretch, but neither skater could pull off the upset.

At 35-years-old, the question for Shani Davis was whether his best days were behind him. He won the 1500m silver in 2006 and 2010. He was also the gold medalist in the 1000m in 2006 and 2010. He finished 11th in Sochi and was looking for redemption in today’s race. Davis had held the world record in this event until December of this past year until Denis Yuskov broke it with a time of 1:46.74.

Davis went out hard in his race: He was .28 seconds faster than the lead at the 300m mark. He stayed ahead of the pace at the 700m mark. But he began to lose time on the final lap and fell behind the pace by the 1100m mark. It was clear the speed skating great gave it all he had, but he didn’t have enough in the tank to finish. His end time was 1:46.74, which was good for 19th overall.  

Davis was somewhat lighthearted after the race, "The ice was super-fast, unfortunately I wasn't."

He added, "I just didn't have the snap and drive. I just hope I got the cobwebs out and (I have) got 10 days to figure how to get on the podium (in the 1000m)."

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