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Speed ​​skating champion chooses sportsmanship over Olympic medal

BEIJING (AP) — Kai Verbij was the reigning world champion in the 1,000 meter speed skating event.

The Dutch star really liked his chances of winning a medal on Friday at the Beijing Olympics.

But, with a split second of sportsmanship, Verbij lost any chance of claiming a place on the podium.

In fact, he finished dead last.

Verbij fell back on the home straight of the crossroads, knowing he didn’t have enough speed to get ahead of Canadian Laurent Dubreuil.

Rather than risk a collision, Verbij came out of his racing crouch and slowed down to stay clear of Dubreuil, who broke away for the silver medal.

With his medal chances lost, Verbij raced to the finish line. He found himself more than 3 1/2 seconds behind second-to-last Austin Kleba of the United States.

“I’m pretty sad that I couldn’t set a good time,” Verbij said. “But Laurent skated really, really fast in the first 600m. It could happen. After the second inside, I didn’t feel like I had enough speed to overtake him at the lane change. So I had to stop. Otherwise, I would have been disqualified and probably ruined his race.

In speed skating, competitors are required to change lanes at the immediate rear of each full lap as the inside lane of the 400 meter oval covers a shorter distance than the outside lane.

The skater changing from the outside lane to the inside lane has priority, and there is usually no problem with the change.

But Dubreuil, whose best race is the 500m, came out exceptionally fast. That left him even with Verbij as they came out of the penultimate corner.

Rather than attempt a risky maneuver, Verbij gave way to his competitor.

“I can’t say thank you enough to him,” Dubreuil said. “It was a really professional and elegant move to make. He’s a friend, so when he gets over it, I’ll give him some time, I’ll thank him for sure.

Dubreuil said it was “unfortunate for us to be tied with 250 to go”.

“I went faster than ever in the 600m,” said the Canadian skater. “I was ahead of what I had in my race plan.”

Verbij, who finished sixth in the 1,000m at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, had high hopes for his first Olympic medal in Beijing.

But when he saw the starting roster, he knew there might be a problem with the final change due to Dubreuil’s early speed. Verbij, on the other hand, is much stronger on the last lap.

“It’s not the first time it’s happened to me, but not in the Olympics, of course,” Verbij said. “It’s quite sad. I’m quite disappointed. But someone had to lose, I guess.”

Another Dutch skater, Thomas Krol, captured the gold at the Ice Ribbon Arena.

Krol lamented that his teammate didn’t get the chance to show what he could do.

“It’s really sad to see this happen because he’s my best friend,” Krol said. “He was on his way to a medal for sure. I was really cheering him on and hoping he would be on the podium with me.

“I’m really sorry for him. My heart hurts.


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