Posts Tagged ‘Speedskating’

Postcard from Richmond

Bob de Jong

Bob de Jong (left), a spokesman for designated drivers, celebrated his bronze at the Heineken House. (Luke Winn/SI

SI’s Alexander Wolff is stationed on the far fringe of the Olympic scene, covering long-track speedskating. He’ll be filing regular blog dispatches from the edge.

To judge by the video and images Luke posted here last week, speedskater Bob de Jong of the Netherlands is a world-class wastrel. His wild black hair gives him the look of someone freshly emerged from a session in an Amsterdam coffee shop. And while presiding over the bacchanalia in Richmond’s Holland Heineken House on Tuesday night, de Jong seemed well-acquainted with the title sponsor’s product.


The BOB keychains.

Turns out that de Jong, the accidental medalist in the 10,000 meters after countryman Sven Kramer’s disqualification, is something of an ascetic. He lives in a spartan garret in Berlin and devotes himself obsessively to his athletic craft. That wild hair is cultivated, he says, so the hood of his speed suit will puff up in just the right, aerodynamic way. In fact, the Dutch know Bob as spokesman for BOB, a nationwide campaign against drunk driving. BOB is an acronym for Bewust Onbeschonken Bestuurder — literally, “conscious non-drinking driver,” or designated driver. Pass a breathalyzer test at a random checkpoint in the Netherlands, and you’re handed a BOB keychain.

It’s not an Olympic medal. It’s not even an Olympic pin. But as a token — dare I say “Bob-ble” — of my fortnight in Holland-on-the-Fraser, I want me a BOB keychain.

  • Published On Feb. 27, 2010 by lukewinn
  • The (Dutch) Party Must Go On

    Heineken House

    Bob de Jong, who won bronze after Sven Kramer was DQ'd, takes the stage at Heineken House. (Luke Winn/SI)

    RICHMOND, British Columbia — I wandered into the stands midway through speedskater Sven Kramer’s 10,000-meter race on Tuesday, and found myself near a Dutch fan who was almost convulsing with excitement. His countryman was on pace to set a new Olympic record, and the fan yelled to no one in particular, “The Heineken House is going to be so INSANE!”

    He was referring to the Holland Heineken House in Richmond’s O-Zone, which is the epicenter of the Dutch party scene at the 2010 Games. Tuesday was shaping up to be the party of the Olympics — Kramer, the most famous speedskater in a speedskating-mad nation, would be coming to celebrate his gold in their favorite race, the 10,000, and the night would close with a set from Armin van Buuren, the world’s most famous trance DJ.

    But something devastating happened with eight laps to go in Kramer’s race. One of the American journalists there compared it to Derek Jeter hitting a walk-off homer to win the World Series, and then forgetting to touch third base during his trot. As SI’s Alex Wolff wrote from the Oval:

    Dutch fans

    Dutch fans at the Richmond Oval were devastated on Tuesday after Kramer lost out on gold. (Luke Winn/SI)

    Kramer was as certain a gold medalist in the 10,000 meters as any contestant in any event at these Games. The world-record holder had been on his way to an Olympic record with eight laps to skate, holding a steadily expanding lead of more than six seconds over Lee Seung-Hoon of South Korea. That’s when Kramer’s coach, Gerard Kemkers, called out “inner lane!”

    In the space of that moment Kramer hesitated. His right skate flew over one of the pylons that mark the lanes as they head into each curve, but he dutifully — and erroneously — headed to the inside, then skated home in what would have been a comfortable winning time of 12:54.50.

    But Kemkers had messed up. Kramer sailed over the finish believing he had won his second gold of the Games. “Maybe this was my best 10K ever,” he would later say. “Every stroke was 100 percent.” It was left to Kemkers to go up to Kramer and tell him he had been disqualified for crossing over into the wrong lane. A venue full of orange-clad Dutch, whose cheers Kramer had consumed like fuel, fell silent.

    The Heineken House scene we witnessed later in the day was a conflicted one: Fans still showed up to drink, but they tortured themselves by watching endless replays of Kramer’s fatal lane change on banks of flat-screen TVs. Kramer, already the winner of one gold, was their most beloved Olympian; as fan Bram Van den Boom said to me, “He’s kind of like [our] Team Canada.”

    When the 10,000-meter medal ceremony from Vancouver’s BC Place hit the big screens, and the Korean national anthem played, chants of “Holland! Holland!” erupted from the back of the room. The party slowly recovered after that. Van Buuren still showed, as did Holland’s bronze medalist in the race, Bob de Jong, who didn’t act conflicted about the way he’d backed into third place. I took a few moments off from consuming Heinekens to film a FlipCam movie, which includes de Jong pulling a Mark Madsen. Enjoy:

    Coping With Kramer\'s 10,000m Disaster

    Coping With Kramer\'s 10,000m Disaster

    This movie requires Adobe Flash for playback.

  • Published On Feb. 24, 2010 by lukewinn
  • Postcard From Richmond

    Gaetan Boucher

    Gordon Milne's portrait of Canadian speedskater Gaetan Boucher, a four-time Olympic medalist. (

    SI’s Alexander Wolff is stationed on the far fringe of the Olympic scene, covering long-track speedskating. He’ll be filing regular blog dispatches from the edge.

    Yesterday afternoon, after the women’s 3,000 meters, I found a place even livelier than the Richmond Curling Club’s Big Rock Lounge. The Canadian Sport Centre of Calgary, one of the entities working diligently to clog podiums with Canadian Olympians, held a reception at the University of British Columbia Boathouse overlooking the Fraser River to showcase a dozen portraits it had commissioned of legendary Canadian athletes. The artist, Gordon Milne, spent about three months on each, first probing the Olympian’s personality with interviews, then rendering the athlete with bold, angular splotches of color.

    The operative word is splotches. Milne charmed the gathering — and disarmed any incipient art critics in the crowd — with an anecdote from his first year in art school. He had just executed an assignment, a self-portrait, when he was summoned to his professor’s office. Teacher looked carefully at student, then carefully at painting, and said, “You don’t look like you have syphilis.”

    A number of Milne’s subjects were on hand, including rower Silken Laumann, speedskater Gaetan Boucher, swimmer Alex Baumann and pentathlete Diane Jones Konihowski. As the dinner hour approached, the big screens in the boathouse showed Montreal’s Alexandre Bilodeau nailing the moguls run that delivered Canada its first gold medal at an Olympics on home soil. The place went nuts.

    The drought finally ended, I played provocateur. I asked a lifelong Vancouverite in the crowd if it still counted, the deed being done by a Quebecois and all.

    “Western Canadians don’t really have any use for them unless they’re playing hockey or in the Olympics,” he confessed. “Otherwise, we wish they’d shut up and quit whining.”

  • Published On Feb. 16, 2010 by lukewinn