Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Enemy Within

With a coach like Gerard Kemkers, who needs competition?

By now you may have heard of poor speedskater Sven Kramer of Holland, whose gold medal was torpedoed by his own coach, Kemkers.

Kemkers, who admitted later that he had been momentarily distracted, nonetheless barked out an order to his skater late in his 10K meter race to change lanes, a gaffe that caused an illegal move by Kramer and thus disqualifying the young man.

Kemkers, distraught, tried to comfort Kramer immediately after the race but the skater angrily brushed him off, making wild arm gestures and slamming his glasses to the ice.

Kemkers is lucky that Kramer didn't blend him into Hollandaise sauce.

"I was on my way to making the right decision," Kramer said later. "Right before the corner, I changed my decision. I changed my decision on the advice of my [coach]."


Coach Kemkers (left) tries to console the destroyed speedskater Kramer


Kemkers was distraught afterward. "My world collapsed," he told Dutch reporters. "This is the worst moment of my career. Sven was right. I was wrong."

The worst moment of HIS career?

Kramer won't want to hear it, but it's stories like this that make the Olympic Games so compelling. Every Olympiad, we are regaled with stories of triumph, tragedy, and the overcoming of personal hurdles and bad odds.

Lee Seung-Hoon of South Korea finished second to Kramer, some six seconds back. But thanks to the DQ, Lee became the gold medalist.

That makes two victims, as far as I'm concerned. There's Kramer, of course, and there's Lee, who surely can't look at his gold medal without feeling like it's tainted. Who wants to "win" that way?

Kramer, the next day, had simmered down and accepted his fate. He said that his performance might have been the best 10K he's ever skated, but that there's pretty much nothing that can be done now.

Nothing, except for making a voodoo doll of Kemkers and poking it on a daily basis.

That might help a little bit.

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