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Holland's Kramer takes 5,000 meter, Americans well back

RICHMOND, British Columbia - Dutch speedskater Sven Kramer won the gold medal in the men's 5,000 meters in a games record at the Olympic Oval Saturday, finally claiming the one major title that had eluded him.

The 23-year-old prerace favorite won in 6 minutes, 14.60 seconds, shaving six hundredths of a second off Jochem Uytdehaage's Olympic record set at altitude in Salt Lake City in 2002. Lee Seung-hoon of South Korea was second in 6:16.95. Ivan Skobrev of Russia was third in 6:18.05.

American challengers Chad Hedrick and Shani Davis finished 11th and 12th.

"It just goes to show [Kramer] has the heart of a champion," said Davis, who was paired with Kramer. "He had to go out first, and he had a whole bunch of sharpshooters behind him. He went out there and did his thing. He didn't leave anything to question about who's better than him."

Only two years after switching from short track, Lee was the shock of the day with his silver. "This is a dream and a surprise," he said.

After winning world and European titles, Kramer finally got the gold he had been waiting for since he finished with silver and bronze in Turin four years ago. There to see it were Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and Crown Prince Willem Alexander.

"The pressure was so high in Holland," Kramer said.

With the 10,000 and the team pursuit to come, Kramer is now a hot favorite to leave Vancouver with three gold medals.

Kramer was the only one of the favorites to perform well. The first of the major challengers to skate, he set the bar and then settled in to wait out the final six skaters. When Skobrev and Enrico Fabris, tipped as his toughest challenger, were challenging his time early, Kramer literally was biting his nails with tension in the infield. Fabris finished seventh.

The Olympic oval was filled to its 7,600 capacity with Dutch fans and locals wearing the red Canadian colors, their cries and encouragement cascading off the spectacular wood beams covering the oval.

From early on, it is was clear it was going to be plodding ice because of the air density at sea level, and times never got close to world-record pace.

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