Ted-Jan Bloemen ended a lengthy drought on Sunday.
“I was just trying to catch that guy in front of me,” said Bloemen, who skated to a silver medal in his first Olympic Games appearance. “I was so tired. I could barely stand on my legs… taking every risk and giving my all to get ahead.”
Bloemen, skating in a pairing with Norwegian Sverre Lunde Pedersen, completed the 12 1/2 laps of the Gangneung Oval with a time of 6:11.61. It was a photo finish with Bloemen just two one-thousandths (0.002) of a second faster than Pedersen.
“I didn’t know,” laughed Bloemen when asked if he thought he had edged the Norwegian in the race.
Winning gold was Sven Kramer of the Netherlands, who won his third straight 5000m gold medal with an Olympic record time of 6:09.76. The Dutch have been dominant in Olympic speed skating in recent years – something Bloemen knows all about.
Bloemen is Dutch-born but, after not making the country’s Sochi 2014 team, moved to his father’s birth country later that year in search of a more suitable training environment. He joined the Canadian speed skating squad – and his impact was immediate. He helped Canada win team pursuit silver at the 2015 World Single Distances Championships and then had a career year in 2015-16, which included breaking the 10,000m world record that had stood since March 2007.
“It was a hard decision – but in the end it was also easy,” said the 31-year-old about his move to Canada. “I always felt at home right from the start because I had such great people around me. I’ve just been so happy the last four years of my life.”
Bloemen admits he has always struggled to find consistency, but his move to Canada has seemed to help.
“I used to be able to do a good performance once in a while, but to do a really, really good performance you need to be doing good performances every time. The consistency was just never there for me and that’s something I’ve worked really hard on – to make my weak point my strong point.”
While Sunday’s race resulted in a silver medal for Bloemen, he said it wasn’t his best performance. He’ll have a chance to improve though as he is expected to take part in the 10,000m and the team pursuit races in PyeongChang as well.
“I focused on the things I wanted to focus on when the race got hard,” the Calgary resident said. “That perfect race when you get into a flow and just fly to the finish doesn’t always happen – and it didn’t happen today. But I made the most out of it and I got everything out of myself that I had. I’m a little bit disappointed that I didn’t have more to give today but, overall, I’m happy and really proud to be on the podium. It’s a really big reward for my whole team.’
Like Sunday’s race, Bloemen’s path to an Olympic medal may not have been the smoothest or easiest – but it all worked out in the end.
“I’m 31 years old now and this is my first Olympic Games and I already won a medal at it. It is really big, and I’m really proud and I am really grateful for the great team that I have around me,” he said.
“I chose a different path and it all turned out better than I could have hoped.”