Kramer wants to turn Olympics into Svencouver

What Sven Kramer wants, Sven Kramer gets. What the Dutch speedskater wants is an Olympic gold medal.

"It is the only thing I don't have yet, and I will do my utmost to get it," he said.

The last time he really felt the sting of losing was at the Turin Olympics, where Italy's Enrico Fabris became the star of the oval with two golds and a bronze. Kramer made an Olympic rookie mistake when he clipped a marker and brought down his Dutch pursuit team, which seemed destined for gold. And Kramer left Turin as a surly 19-year-old with only silver and bronze.

Since then there have been four European and three world all-round titles, world titles in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters each of the last three years, and world records in the 5,000 and 10,000. Now 23, he has enough gold for a lifetime.

Ever the glutton, he wants to win three gold medals in Vancouver and become the undisputed master of the Olympic Oval. The overwhelming favorite in the 5,000 and 10,000, he's also eager to undo his mistake of Turin and lead the pursuit team to gold.

Born and bred in Heerenveen, the heart of Dutch skating in northern, freezing Friesland, he is the son of skating parents, with a father good enough to race in world championships and famous marathon races. As a kid, Sven would join Yep at foreign camps, and he became world junior champion five years ago.

His latest European all-round title last month in Hamar, Norway, was little more than a glorified training session for Vancouver.

"In four weeks, we have a way more important competition. And that is what counts," he said after winning an unprecedented fourth straight European title.

It certainly is what the whole of the Netherlands is banking on.

Every four summers, the country dresses up in orange to cheer on an overly confident national soccer team heading to the World Cup, and invariably fans end up crying in their beers with disappointment. Every four winters, enthusiasm centers on the Olympics, and there, the Dutch speedskaters rarely disappoint.

This year though, the depth of the speedskating team is nowhere near what it has been in the past. That only adds to Kramer's stature; already imposing enough his body-hugging suit, his smile after another inevitable victory disarms everyone.

"He exudes success, he looks good. He has so many things going his way, and because of that, he became a national hero," said Ruud Bakker, the band leader of Kleintje Pils which goes wherever Dutch skaters need cheers and support. "It is beautiful to watch a hero at work."

For most athletes, that would translate into suffocating pressure, which does get to Kramer.

"A great many people expect everything from me, and that is not always easy," he said.

Then again, Kramer gladly puts that pressure on himself: "I set the bar extremely high."

His coach, Gerard Kemkers, understands the issue.

"He has all the Olympic pressure, and on top of that all the pressure of being unbeaten," Kemkers said. "Every now and then, that can make it extremely difficult."