SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Michel Mulder ‘lost’ then won the men’s 500 meters Olympic speed skating title by one hundredth of a second in a dramatic finale at the Adler Arena on Monday, with his twin brother Ronald taking bronze in another Dutch clean sweep of the medals.
After clocking a combined 69.312 seconds for his two 500m races, Mulder sat on the edge of the ice and watched as compatriot Jan Smeekens crossed the line in the final heat and was placed on top of the leaderboard on the giant screen.
Smeekens skated down the back straight celebrating the gold but the official timings showed the duo were level, before adjusting to reveal a 0.012 difference -- in favor of Mulder.
“When he crossed the line I thought we were equal, I knew my total,” Mulder told reporters of the angst-ridden finish.
”I saw ‘1’ against his name and I thought maybe they correctly pointed out who was fastest in thousands of a second and I thought I was second.
“(Then) I looked at the board and saw his time was going one hundredth up. At first I didn’t believe it and wasn’t sure but then soon enough I saw my name on top of the list and knew it was a official result. Unbelievable. Great feeling.”
The Dutch have won seven of the nine medals available at the Adler Arena so far and the Mulders became the first twins to medal in the same individual Winter Olympics event since Americans Phil and Steven Mahre achieved the feat in alpine skiing at the 1984 Sarajevo Games.
The gold was a record 30th for the Dutch in speed skating. They had been tied on 29 with the United States.
While the 27-year-old Mulder ripped open his suit and screamed in delight at winning gold, Smeekens struggled to sum the pain of having it snatched from his grasp.
“It was a kick in the gut,” said Smeekens, who said he thought he had won for about “two or three minutes”.
“I was so ecstatic that I won, I can’t describe it.”
Smeekens said he could not believe the margin of victory.
“I have never seen it in my career and I don’t think we will see it again.”
Smeekens topped the time sheets after the first run with a blistering 34.59 seconds to leave the Mulder twins and defending champion Mo Tae-bum of South Korea trailing.
In the second run, Ronald Mulder produced a best-of-the-day 34.49 seconds to jump from sixth into gold medal position with only six skaters left.
Michel then bettered his twin brother’s times in the penultimate heat against a disappointing Mo, who finished fourth, before the final pairing drama.
Smeekens, who finished sixth in Vancouver four years ago, said he had failed in a protest at the decision.
”There was a photo finish and the judges said it was legitimate.
”I have to believe them and I have to congratulate Michel and Roland as well. It’s special. I am proud of them, but the disappointment is overwhelming right now.
“It’s silver and I have to be happy with it. Maybe I will be that in a couple of hours, days, years, I don’t know. But now it’s really disappointing.”
Roland finished 0.15 seconds behind his brother to complete the second speed skating clean sweep for the Dutch at the Sochi Games following the men’s 5,000 on Saturday.
“If your twin brother becomes Olympic champion and you win bronze you have to be satisfied,” said Ronald.
(This version of the story fixes U.S. medals to 29 in 8th paragraph)
Editing by Peter Rutherford