Blunders and belly slides at oval

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By Larry Fine

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Blunders, malfunctions and a belly-sliding finish marked competition at Richmond Olympic Oval but a slender marvel from the Czech Republic emerged as queen of speedskating in the Vancouver Games.

While Sven Kramer of the Netherlands and American Shani Davis failed to deliver on campaign promises, Czech Martina Sablikova was golden in the 3,000 and 5,000 meters and added a surprising bronze in the 1,500 meters to rule the long track.

Kramer, triple world champion and world record holder over both the 5,000m and 10,000m, came to the west coast of Canada to become crowned "King Kramer."

Instead he left as the "Clown Prince" after changing to the wrong lane on his confused coach's instruction near the end of a sure-fire gold-medal run in the 10,000m and was disqualified.

Miscommunication with his team pursuit partners left the world record holding Dutch team out of the gold medal final.

"It's not what I expected," said Kramer, 23, who won the 5,000m. "I came here to get three golds and now I have one."

South Koreans swept the sprints with Mo Tae-bum winning the 500m and taking silver in the 1,000m, while Lee Sang-hwa won the women's 500m.


Korea sprung a surprise in the distance races as short track convert Lee Seung-hoon took in the 5,000m and then gobbled up gold in the 10,000m after Kramer's gaffe.

"The Korean guy? That's a real surprise for all the speedskating world," said Russian Ivan Skobrev, who won silver in the 10,000m and bronze in the 5,000m.

The oval had some mechanical glitches when the battery-operated ice resurfacing machines broke down causing delays in two races.

Anna Friesinger-Postma overcame a glitch of her own making to help Germany get gold in the women's team pursuit.

She did a belly flop to the ice after the last turn in the women's team pursuit semi-finals and frantically paddled to the finish line as Germany edged the U.S. to reach the final.

Sablikova had a much smoother trip to double gold and won an unabashed admirer in IOC chief Jacques Rogge.

"She is definitely the queen of skating," Rogge told a small group of reporters as he applauded her performance.

(Editing by Jon Bramley)