Who is Sven Kramer?
Speed skating beginnings
Sven Kramer was born on April 23rd, 1986 in Heerenveen, the Dutch city that’s known as a hotbed of speed skating talent. Kramer grew up in a skating family: his father, Yep, competed at the 1980 and 1984 Olympics, as well as Dutch marathon races. His mother Eli and younger sister Brecht were also speed skaters.
Kramer competed in short track, cycling, soccer and tennis along with speed skating when he was growing up. In his teens, Kramer decided to get serious about speed skating and dropped the other sports.
Kramer won his first Dutch Allround Championships title in 2004 at just 18 years old. A few months later, he competed at the 2005 World Allround Championships and earned a bronze medal.
Kramer turned from a Dutch rising star to a world superstar at the end of 2005, when he broke the 5000m world record for the first time. He would go on to lower it twice more, and still holds the record.
Kramer made his Olympic debut at the 2006 Winter Games in Torino, Italy. Then 19 years old, Kramer’s first Olympic medal was a silver in the 5000m—a slightly disappointing result for the world record holder in that distance. Kramer also helped the Dutch men to a bronze medal in the team pursuit.
Four years later at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Kramer was poised to add multiple Olympic titles to his resume. In his first race, the 5000m, he improved on his Torino result to claim the gold medal with a new Olympic record time.
His next race was the 10,000m, the distance in which he was a three-time world champion and held the world record at the time. As expected, he posted the fastest time, but then received the shocking news that he had been disqualified. During the 17th lap of the 25-lap race, Kramer’s coach, Gerald Kemkers, had incorrectly directed Kramer to make a lane change, and as a result Kramer’s time were deemed invalid. He called it the worst moment of his career, but was able to forgive his coach and kept training with Kemkers through the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Kramer did end the Vancouver Winter Games by ending his fourth career Olympic medal, another bronze in the team pursuit with the Dutch men.
Kramer headed to the 2014 Sochi Olympics looking for redemption in the 10,000m. While he did set a new Olympic record and earn a second-straight gold in the 5000m, the 10,000m Olympic title continued to prove elusive and Kramer finished second behind countrymen Jorrit Bergsma. He also won another gold, this time in the team pursuit, to bring his career total of Olympic medals to seven.
Kramer has continued to dominate the World Allround Championships and World Single Distances Championships in the years since the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
He won the world allround title three consecutive times in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
At both the 2016 and 2017 World Single Distances Championships, he swept the two distance races (the 5000m and 10,000m). He also picked up a bronze medal in the 1500m at the 2017 Worlds. The distance specialist last won a world medal in an event other than the 5000m, 10,000m or team pursuit in 2008.
With seven Olympic medals, Kramer is currently tied with Finland’s Clas Thunberg and Norway’s Ivar Ballangrud, neither of whom are still competing, as most decorated Olympic male speed skater.
If he repeats his performance from Sochi and wins three more medals in PyeongChang, he’ll surpass nine-time Olympic medalist Claudia Pechstein to become the most decorated speed skater in Olympic history. However, Pechstein is still competing and hopes to earn additional Olympic medals in 2018.
Kramer currently holds both the world record in the 5000m, as well as the team pursuit world record with the Dutch men. He also held the world’s fastest time in the 10,000m from 2007 to 2015 before Canada’s Ted-Jan Bloeman broke Kramer’s record.
Kramer often dominates the two longest distance events on the world championships and Olympic program, the 5000m and 10,000m, but he’s not without rivals. In fact, it’s another Dutch skater, Jorrit Bergsma, who most often challenges Kramer for the top spot on the podium.
The Kramer-Bergsma rivalry became apparent in 2013, when they split silver and gold in both of their signature distances at the world championships: Kramer won 5000m gold while Bergsma earned silver, then Bergsma took the 10,000m title and Kramer finished second.
Again at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Bergsma and Kramer finished 1-2 in the 10,000m. In the 5000m, Kramer took first place and Bergsma was third.
However, Kramer landed ahead of Bergsma in both races at the 2017 World Single Distance Championships.
Despite both being Dutch, they are members of separate professional teams and don’t train together. Kramer described the rivalry as friendly, explaining that their battles drive them both to better results.
Top quotes [from self or others]
"Being satisfied with silver is not my view on top sport. That is not why I train, that is not why I race. I race to win." -- Sven Kramer to Olympic.org
Off the ice
Kramer is a Dutch superstar for his athletic achievements, but he’s also become famous for being half of a sporting power couple. His girlfriend of over 10 years is Naomi van As, a Dutch field hockey player who has won two Olympic golds and a silver. Kramer traveled to both the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Summer Olympics to cheer her on.
Like many speed skaters, Kramer frequently incorporates cycling into his training regime. In the spring of 2017, he fell off his bicycle during a race and broke his left collarbone.