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Speed skating boss wonders: countries are “sleeping” on sport

Sochi Olympics Speedskating

Dutch speedskaters practice during a training session at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Patrick Semansky

As a world feed commentator said during a recent event, the speedskating at the Sochi Olympics has been turned into little more than the “Dutch Championships.”

The Netherlands have so far won 22 medals in Sochi. 21 of them have come from speedskating, and these Games have seen four medal sweeps from the Dutch men and women in that discipline.

Such a performance has caught the attention of International Skating Union president Ottavio Cinquanta, who has told the Associated Press that his group will be investigating if other countries are “sleeping” and “not working enough” in regards to competition.

The U.S. has had a tremendous struggle in Sochi, earning no medals throughout the individual competitions. The last two speedskating events - the men’s and women’s team pursuit - take place tomorrow and Saturday.

MORE: U.S. speedskater Maria Lamb criticizes sanctioning body

Cinquanta is looking to provide more financial incentives for the federations that are linked to better performance on the track, noting that the ISU was “available to spend some money, to invest money — not to give money for free, like rain.”

The ISU is also pondering over changes to make speedskating more exciting for casual fans as well, including possible mass start races and, in what would be an Olympic first, mixed team pursuit races.

The prospect of mass start races is intriguing as it could bring the sport’s top contenders into direct competition and wind up bringing some of the bumping-and-banging essence of short track speedskating to the long-track side.

As for the mixed team pursuit, Cinquanta believes that would stand out for the different tactics and top speeds between the male and female skaters.

However, Dutch team manager Arie Koops - who endorses potential mass start races - isn’t convinced that this particular race would work.

“I understand you want to have mixed events, but you should not do this in a pursuit because the speed differences are such that the men cannot go full out,” he explained to the AP.

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