Now and Sven (by Jeff Funnekotter)

A look at Sven Kramer’s ill-advised lane change by Jeff Funnekotter, our Dutch insider… or is it outsider?… no, insider

Sven Kramer, DQ'd Dutch skater and Michael Cera lookalike

There are two ways to look at the Sven Kramer 10,000 meter debacle.  (Incidentally, in terms of descriptors, ‘debacle’ is reserved for the  Olympics.  Gaffes are for the Commonwealth Games, and faux pas for the Canada Games). For the uninitiated,  Kramer was disqualified for an illegal lane change even though he had the gold medal sewn up.

The reaction to Kramer’s ill-fated lane change here in the Netherlands has been predictably strong.  As anyone visiting Holland Heineken House in Vancouver or watching the Games on TV has noticed, the Dutch  are as crazy about speed skating as Canadians are about hockey, or the British are for hyperbolic slagging of another nation.  It’s not a national day of mourning here though – the pragmatic people from the Pays-bas have a tough ‘het is gewoon zo’ (it’s just the way it is) approach to many things.

But the autopsy is extensive. The replays, shown in excruciatingly slow motion on every channel, show Kramer’s coach advising him to go in instead of out, zig instead of zag, tally instead of ho.  Then we see the coach’s own ‘oh, snap’ look (in slo-mo, “oooooohhhh snaaaaaapppppp”) as he radios to some unseen co-coach to try to blame someone else for at least a minute or so.  To his enormous credit, he absolutely owned his mistake in every interview after the race, and I suspect nobody in the entire country feels as badly as he does today. Even though Kramer could have ignored his advice (equally tough to do though when you’re in the zone and trained to listen to your coaches).  One suspects that Vancouver’s immigration office received an orange-tinted request for political asylum today.

But where do we place our sympathies here?  On the one hand, we can’t comprehend how Kramer must feel after YEARS of training to get to this point, only to have victory vanquished by a technicality.  On the other hand, for those who have seen this clip, you may not mind that he was served a healthy heap of humble pie yesterday.

What’s more stupid, after all – a reporter asking a foreign athlete a standard question (albeit somewhat rudely) for video identification  for what is surely just a tool to help her editors figure out who’s who on the tape reel, or a coach and skater missing a simple lane  switch that they’ve practiced thousands of times?  Do you feel bad for the smiling and talented young kid who trains day in and day out, or do you are you pleased that the arrogant rude punk received some harsh comeuppance? Inside lane or outside lane?

By Jeff Funnekotter


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