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Dutch men make speedskating pursuit semifinals

RICHMOND, British Columbia (AP) — Sven Kramer's Olympics got even worse on Friday when the Dutch pursuit team was upset in the semifinals by a U.S. team led by Chad Hedrick.

In Kramer's first event since his lane-switching gaffe cost him gold in the 10,000 meters, there were more mistakes that slowed them as the surprising Americans sped into Saturday's gold medal race.

Instead of the three gold medals he seemed destined for, Kramer will now leave with his 5,000 gold and a team pursuit bronze at best, depending on Saturday race-off against Norway.

Hedrick, a four-time Olympic medalist, extended his speedskating career another day and will leave with at least another silver in the last race of his career. He never wavered in his belief the U.S. team could stun the Dutch.

Powered by Kramer, the Dutch dominated the early laps. But then the 33-year-old Hedrick and two 19-year olds, Brian Hansen and Jonathan Kuck, came back.

The Dutch had trouble getting their train of three skaters in line with commands being misinterpreted by Kramer, 1,500 gold medalist Mark Tuitert and Jan Blokhuijsen.

"It was just a miscommunication and for the second time, an expensive one," Kramer said.

Halfway through the race after four laps, the U.S. team had built a gap of 1.13 seconds and kept building on it until 1.47 seconds with only two laps remaining.

The Dutch charged back into contention but over the nerve-racking last lap, the Americans held on for a victory of .40 seconds and a time of 3 minutes, 42.71 seconds.

Hedrick and his teammates could not believe their good fortune.

Kramer stared ahead, stony faced. The games were not going to end being the "Svencouver" Olympics as anticipated.

And there's no redemption for coach Gerard Kemkers sending him into the wrong lane during Tuesday's 10,000 to disqualify the heavily favored Dutchman when gold was a lock.

Instead, Kemkers and head coach Wopke de Vegt went straight into discussions on what could have gone wrong now.

The team pursuit was added to the Winter Games in Turin and provides head-to-head competition between teams of three tightly bunched skaters starting from opposite sides of the oval.

There are no lane changeovers in the event, and the winner is determined by which team gets all three of its skaters across the line first. The men race eight laps from the inside lane, the women six.

Hedrick did not lead the only U.S. upset on Friday.

In the women's team quarterfinals, the United States scored another surprise by eliminating favored Canada by .05 seconds when 1,000-meter gold medalist Christine Nesbitt failed to get her skate across the line quickly enough as the trailing skater on the Canadian team.

They were expected to be routed by the hosts, but the team of Jennifer Rodriguez, Jilleanne Rookard and Nancy Swider-Peltz Jr. stunned Canada's star-studded team of Nesbitt, double medalist Kristina Groves and Brittany Schussler to advance to semifinals.

Swider-Peltz slipped a bit in the turn but managed to get across the line ahead of Nesbitt.

Canada coach Ingrid Paul immediately clasped her hands across her mouth in shock and a heavy silence fell over the Canadian fans.

The Canadian men did better, beating Norway with an Olympic record of 3:42.33 to set up another North American final with the United States.

The team had already eliminated defending champion Italy in the quarterfinals, finishing a fruitless Olympics for Enrico Fabris, who was the best skater in Turin four years ago with two gold and a bronze. He won nothing in Vancouver.

The Canadian men had won nothing so far at the Olympic Oval but are now at least assured of silver on Saturday.

In the tightest race of the quarterfinal heats, Norway eliminated South Korea by .03 seconds with a time of 3:43.66. With the Koreans surprising throughout the Olympic speedskating program with three golds and two silvers, their early elimination was just as shocking.

The South Korean women too were eliminated in the first round.