HEERENVEEN, Netherlands (AP) — Five-time champion Sven Kramer took a giant step toward his sixth European allround speedskating title by convincingly winning the 5,000-meter race Friday.
The reigning Olympic champion and world record holder powered around the Thialf oval in 6 minutes, 12.55 seconds, more than five seconds quicker than teammate Jan Blokhuijsen, who was considered the only skater with a chance to dethrone Kramer.
Sverre Lunde Pedersen of Norway was third, edging Belgian inline skater Bart Swings into fourth place. "I've built a good lead, but I'm not there yet," Kramer told national broadcaster NOS. "We still have two races to go."
It was Kramer's second fastest time ever for a 5,000-meter on his home oval. A disappointed Blokhuijsen also stressed the title was not yet Kramer's. However, Kramer is usually quicker than Blokhuijsen in the 1,500 which the men skate Saturday, and holds the world record in the 10,000 which wraps up the tournament Sunday.
"I did not want to be so far back after the 5,000," Blokhuijsen said. In the competition's first event, Konrad Niedzwiedzki won the 500-meter race in 35.93 seconds, one tenth of a second ahead of his Poland teammate Zbigniew Brodka. Havard Bokko of Norway, an outsider for the allround title, was third in 36.14.
Kramer leads the allround standings ahead of Blokhuijsen and Bokko. The women's tournament gets under way Saturday with the 500 and 3,000. Defending women's allround champion Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic could struggle to hold on to her title as she is suffering back problems. That could clear the way for Dutch star Ireen Wust to win the European crown for the first time since 2008.