Nils van der Poel broke his own world record Friday night en route to winning the men’s 10,000-meter speedskating race and picking up his second gold medal of the Beijing Olympics.
Van der Poel’s time of 12:30.74 was over two seconds faster than the previous world record, which he set at the world championships in the Netherlands last year. It was also almost 14 seconds — about half a lap — faster than any other skater, cementing van der Poel as the world’s undisputed top distance skater.
The world record by Van der Poel, a Swede, came five days after he won the 5,000-meter race in an Olympic record time, and two days after he rocked the speedskating world with an accusation that the Dutch team was pressuring the ice technician at the National Speed Skating Oval to make the Olympic ice conditions more favorable to the Dutch.
The Dutch Olympic Committee denied the accusation, and van der Poel’s main rival, the Dutchman Patrick Roest, dismissed it as a mind game. If it was, it appears to have worked. Roest finished second to van der Poel in the 10,000 meters, while the Italian Davide Ghiotto finished third.
Before the race, van der Poel said the plan remained the same as always: “We skate it like we always skate it,” he said. “We skate flat, and we skate fast.”
Van der Poel opened the race by reeling off laps in about 30 seconds, consistently growing a lead on Roest, who had skated about an hour beforehand. But he did not exactly achieve his goal of skating flat lap times: He bettered it. In the second half of the race, van der Poel cranked out laps of ever decreasing times, with two final laps of 28.9 and 28.6 seconds, his two fastest laps of the night.
His record is the only one set at sea level. The other speedskating world records have been set in high-altitude rinks in Salt Lake City and Calgary, where the lower air resistance allows skaters to go faster.