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At Dutch speed skating trials, joy for some Olympic gold medalists, pain for others

Dutch Olympic Speed Skating Qualification Tournament - Day 2

HEERENVEEN, NETHERLANDS - DECEMBER 27: Kjeld Nuis competes during the Olympisch Kwalificatie Toernooi at Thialf on December 27, 2021 in Heerenveen, Netherlands (Photo by Douwe Bijlsma/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

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At the Dutch Olympic speed skating trials, legends Ireen Wüst and Sven Kramer won zero events, but Wüst is likely to be named to the team and Kramer a possibility after second- and third-place finishes.

The Netherlands won seven of the 10 individual distance races at the 2018 Olympics. Just one of those gold medalists won an event at the Olympic Trials, and it looks like at least two of them will miss the Olympic team altogether.

Kjeld Nuis, the only speed skater to win two individual events at the PyeongChang Games, rebounded from a fourth-place finish in Wednesday’s 1000m to win his other gold-medal event, the 1500m, on Thursday and book a spot on the team in his last race.

Kramer, the most decorated male Olympic speed skater with nine medals, must wait for a selection committee to decide if he merits a spot after finishing third in his lone event, the 5000m. Kramer won that event at the last three Olympics, but with Olympic roster sizes limited to nine total skaters per gender, third place didn’t guarantee selection.

The Dutch federation created a matrix before the trials to rank skaters by the nation’s medal chances in each event. If selectors choose the nine-man team directly from the matrix, Kramer would miss it by one spot.

However, that might not happen. Kramer could be put on the team to skate the team pursuit or the mass start, in addition to the 5000m. Kramer skated both those events at the 2018 Olympics.

The current ninth skater in the matrix, Dai Dai N’tab, finished second in the 500m at trials, but he is not suited to the team pursuit or mass start, which are distance events. The Netherlands has other skaters ranked higher who are capable of competing in the team pursuit or mass start, though.

Are those skaters sufficient for the federation, or does it value Kramer’s presence? The federation will announce the team on Monday, according to Dutch broadcaster NOS.

In the women’s events, career Olympic speed skating medals leader Wüst appeared to make a fifth Olympic team with a second-place finish in Wednesday’s 1500m, though it’s not totally assured. Wüst also placed third in the 1000m and is in line to skate that event in Beijing, too.

Wüst, 35, will tie retired Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjørndalen for second place on the career Winter Olympic medals list if she wins two to bring her total to 13. If she wins three (possible if she’s on the team pursuit), she will move one shy of the Winter Olympic record held by retired Norwegian cross-country skier Marit Bjørgen.

Jorien ter Mors, who won the 1500m in 2014 and the 1000m in 2018, finished fifth and 13th in those events and appears set to miss the team altogether.

Esmee Visser, who won the 2018 Olympic 5000m, missed the team in that event by placing ninth on Thursday.

Carlijn Achtereekte, the 2018 Olympic 3000m champion, placed third on Thursday and looks to have made the team thanks to other skaters qualifying in multiple events.

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