Nils van der Poel has given Sweden its first Olympic speedskating medal since 1988, pulling off a stunning comeback to win gold in the 5000m at the Beijing Games.
Van der Poel was a hot favourite coming into the event as the reigning world champion, with an undefeated record in the distance events on this season’s World Cup circuit.
The 25-year-old lived up to the hype in the 12 1/2-lap race at the Ice Ribbon oval, turning on the speed at the end to overcome Patrick Roest of the Netherlands with an Olympic record of 6 minutes, 8.84 seconds.
Roest had skated about an hour earlier in the sixth of 10 pairs, initially breaking the Olympic mark in 6:09.31.
Then he nervously watched in the workout room as one pair after another failed to take down his time.
It looked as though van der Poel in the final group would come up short, too, as he fell 2 seconds behind Roest’s pace with just three laps to go.
Then the Swede kicked it into another gear.
Van der Poel became the first Swedish speedskater to claim a medal since Tomas Gustafson won a pair of golds in the 5000 and 10,000 at the Calgary Games 34 years ago.
Since then, the Swedes had not finished higher than seventh in an Olympic race.
Norwegian Hallgeir Engebraaten got bronze, 1.04 seconds behind the winner.