Distance long track speed skating is actually more interesting than it sounds and for Kiwi Olympic athlete Peter Michael, the 5000-metre event at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games was extremely interesting right up until the very end.
Michael took the early lead in the race and held the gold medal position for most of the event, staying in front until eight of the 11 pairs had taken to the ice.
A New Zealand skater had not won a gold medal in Olympic competition in the long track discipline in over a quarter of a century.
Despite his flirtation with precious metal, Michael was caught by the remaining skaters and wound up finishing in fourth, agonizingly close to a podium finish and a medal or one colour or another.
The Palmerston North native saw his gold slip away when Dutchman Jan Blokhuijsen skated a record time of 6.14.07.
“I was trying to pull all the strings I could, it just didn’t happen through the middle section,” said Michael.
Shortly after the Dutchman denied Michael, more records fell, as Canadian Ted-Jan Bloeman took silver and Sverre Lunde Pedersein of Norway took the bronze medal with identical times of 6.11.62.
The gold medal went to another Dutchman, Sven Kramer, who skated an Olympic record 6.09.76, leaving Michael off the podium and in fourth place.
Had Michael held on for a medal, it would have been the first in the Winter Olympics since 1992, when Annelise Coberger took a silver in Albertville, France.
Afterward, Michael said, “I kicked into it a little early, the adrenaline was pumping. I’m disappointed – but good to have the Olympics underway.”
He will have other opportunities in a mass start event and the team pursuit with fellow New Zealanders Reyon Kay and Shane Dobbin.
Michael was a prodigious champion at inline speed skating, so moving to the ice seemed to him a natural progression.