SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Speedskating seems simple: Pace yourself properly, don't get in your opponent's way and go, go, go.
But the men's 5,000-meter final at the Sochi Games shows a subtle challenge for athletes in a simple-looking sport: Strategy.
"Skating is hard — there's lots of things you have to figure out," Norway's Havard Bokko said. "It's really technical."
For Russia's Denis Yuskov, an approach of starting "as fast as possible" in hopes of maintaining it through the end didn't pay off.
"I feel like it's my usual strategy," Yuskov said through an interpreter, though he said the psychological effect of being at the Olympics was a new feeling.
He had the best time at 6:19.51 after 18 of 26 skaters took the ice, but was visibly exhausted as he finished the race — having slowed down tremendously down the final stretch.
He knew the time wouldn't hold up. Yuskov ultimately finished sixth; Sven Kramer of the Netherlands broke his own Olympic record, finishing with a time of 6:10.76 — and average of 29.8 mph.
"The beginning was good but the end was very bad," he said.
Bokko said speedskaters have to skate and breathe with proper technique, have strong legs and a strong heart.
"Keep it together the whole race if you want to skate good and fast," he said.
Kramer was actually running behind Yuskov's time for most of the race, until the final four laps. That's when he made his move, extending his edge with each lap until he'd beaten Yuskov's time by nearly 9 seconds.
— Oskar Garcia— Twitter http://twitter.com/oskargarcia
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