Sven Kramer, the most decorated Olympic male speed skater in history, reportedly struggled with a back injury and ended his season with a 19th-place finish in the 5000m at the world championships on Thursday.
Kramer, the Dutchman who won the 5000m at the last three Olympics, skated 27.13 seconds slower than surprise gold medalist Nils van der Poel of Sweden in a six-minute event in Heerenveen. He beat one skater.
Van der Poel, 24, went three years between World Cup starts until January, when he lowered his national record in the 5000m by nearly eight seconds. He’s the first Swede to win an individual medal at single distance worlds, which debuted in 1996.
Kramer, a 34-year-old who won every Olympic and world championship 5000m he entered between 2007 and 2018, has struggled with injuries in this, expected to be his last, Olympic cycle.
He took world 5000m bronze in 2019 and silver in 2020. He hasn’t competed in the 10,000m at single distance worlds or on the World Cup since placing sixth in that event in PyeongChang.
Kramer qualified for worlds in the 5000m and the team pursuit but will not skate the pursuit on Friday, according to Dutch media.
Earlier, Dutch Olympic bronze medalist Antoinette de Jong won the 3000m by one tenth of a second over Czech distance legend Martina Sablikova, who has made the podium in the event at every worlds since 2009.
Worlds continue Friday with the men’s and women’s 500m, in addition to the team pursuits. A TV and live stream schedule is here.