The men’s 5000m speed skating event begins Sunday morning and provides the first opportunity for male long track skaters to win a medal at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Sven Kramer of the Netherlands has dominated the discipline for three straight Olympics, winning gold each time.
But, the nine-time medalist admitted that this year will be his most difficult title defense yet. He had back surgery that ended his World Cup season in May, and at 35 years old, he enters his final Olympics.
“It’s completely different now,” Kramer said on Thursday. “Back in the day, I could only lose and right now, I can only win. There’s a whole different kind of pressure now.”
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Patrick Roest of the Netherlands is a contender to pick up the mantle. He has won three straight World Allround championships and came in first in the 5000m at the Dutch Trials.
Swedish skater Nils van der Poel set the world record for 5000m in December and will be a great threat to the Dutch’s winning streak.
Chad Hedrick of the United States was the last skater not from the Netherlands to take gold in this discipline back in 2006.
The Dutch have a stronghold on the sport having won 15 gold medals over the past two Winter Olympics. Irene Schouten captured the gold in Saturday’s women’s 3000m final for the Netherlands, the first speed skating event of the 2022 Winter Olympics.
SEE MORE: Irene Schouten wins speed skating gold in women’s 3000m
Casey Dawson and Ethan Cepuran were set to make their Olympic debuts together at 21 years old, but Dawson will not be able to race after testing positive for COVID-19.
He posted on Instagram that he hopes to make it in time for the team pursuit competition starting on Feb. 13.
Emery Lehman announced that he will take Dawson’s place. The 25-year-old finished 21st in this discipline at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
SEE MORE: U.S. speed skater Casey Dawson won’t race 5000m due to COVID-19, hopeful for team pursuit
Skaters will get one attempt to set the fastest time in the second-longest individual distance of the Winter Olympics.
The action will start at 3:30 a.m. ET on Sunday and air LIVE on USA Network, Peacock, the NBC Sports app and NBCOlympics.com.
It will re-air at 2 p.m. ET on NBC.
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