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Canadian speed skater Ted-Jan Bloemen bests former countryman to win gold in men’s 10,000 metre

Ted-Jan Bloemen of Canada celebrates after winning gold.

PHIL NOBLE/REUTERS

The Dutch had won every long-track speed-skating event at the 2018 Winter Olympics when Canadian Ted-Jan Bloemen stepped to the start line on Thursday for the men's 10,000-metre race.

Bloemen, who moved to Canada four years ago from the Netherlands, fearing he would never be able to crack the deeply talented Dutch long-track speed-skating ranks for the Olympics, turned out to be the one man who could knock them off the top of the podium.

His father was born in New Brunswick and had urged Ted-Jan to move to Canada to help kick-start his slumping speed-skating career, and the Canadian program welcomed him with open arms.

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The only thing standing in the way of Bloemen's quest for gold in the gruelling 10K event, it seemed, was another Dutchman – Sven Kramer, the man some consider to be the best long-distance speed skater of all time. But the race did not go as expected for the Netherlands.

Bloemen's time of 12.39.77 was a new Olympic record, finishing 2.21 seconds ahead of Dutch skater Jorrit Bergsma, who had set the same record earlier in the night. Italian skater Nicola Tumolero won bronze.

In a surprising turn of events, Kramer, who won silver in the event in Sochi, finished well off the podium in sixth, in an uncharacteristic time of 13:01.02.

Canadian Jordan Belchos finished in 12:59.51, a personal best, putting him in fifth place.

When Bloemen finished his race, he cheered the new record, but had to take a seat and wait for Kramer to skate.

Unlike earlier in the week, when Kramer beat Bloemen for the gold medal in the 5,000m event, capturing his fourth Olympic title, Bloemen would get the upper hand this time.

At the 8,000m mark of Kramer's race, as the skater began to lag and fall further behind Bloemen's time, Canadian coach Bart Schouten gave him a hug on the sidelines, both of them knowing the gold medal was won.

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"It's really hard to put that moment into words," Bloemen said. "It's more feelings and emotion that run through your body and your mind at that point. It's just a really slow realization that you're becoming an Olympic champion. Imagine that feeling. It's really, really incredible."

Belchos was also elated with his time. "It felt great," said Belchos. "That's the dream, right, to have your best race at the Olympics."

Kramer was the sport's most dominant distance skater when Bloemen left the Netherlands for Canada in 2014. Since the move, Bloemen has blossomed into the skater he always thought he could be, not only establishing himself as one of Canada's leading medal threats in long-track, but also doing the unthinkable: breaking two of Kramer's world records. In 2015, he shattered the 10,000m world record, and in December, did it for the 5,000m race.

Bloemen now holds both the world record and the Olympic record in the 10,000m event.

"I always felt from deep inside that I was able to do something special on the ice, but I was never able to show it [in the Netherlands]," Bloemen said of the move to Canada. "I had to find a different way to do it because I found I kind of hit a wall in my career. And I found that different way – and I got way more than I ever would have hoped."

Asked last week if beating Kramer's records is a bit like defeating a legend like Roger Federer at tennis during his prime, Bloemen laughed. "Yeah, maybe you could compare, yeah," he said, pondering the idea.

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Then he pulled back a bit, not wanting to say anything disrespectful about Kramer: "He's just given us an awesome challenge, and when we can meet that challenge, it's like all the more joy, right?"

On Thursday, Bloemen felt that joy and, for the first time in Pyeongchang, the Dutch speed-skating machine was forced to settle for a medal other than gold.

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