Michel Mulder

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Michel Mulder, Olympic speed skating champion by .01, retires at 33

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Michel Mulder, the speed skater who led a Dutch 500m sweep at the Sochi Olympics, reportedly retired at age 33.

Mulder said recent poor performances — including failing to make the deep Dutch team for February’s world championships — led to the decision, according to Dutch broadcaster NOS.

Mulder won the 2014 Olympic 500m by .01 of a second over countryman Jan Smeekens. The two-run event may be best remembered for Smeekens at first being listed as the winner, only for the time to be corrected moments later, likely due to a faulty leg transponder. Twin brother Ronald Mulder, who is 10 minutes older than Michel, took bronze, .15 of a second behind.

Mulder became the first athlete from the Netherlands to win an Olympic 500m, the only individual distance the skating-crazed nation had yet to capture. In all, the Netherlands won half of the 14 speed skating events in Sochi, and 16 of the 42 medals.

Mulder followed up by taking silver at the 2015 World Championships, but then finished sixth in the 2018 Dutch Olympic trials, failing to earn the right to defend his Olympic title. He last made a World Cup podium nearly two years ago.

Ronald Mulder was the Netherlands’ top finisher in PyeongChang in seventh place, .42 behind Norwegian gold medalist Havard Lorentzen in a one-run event.

A Dutch man hasn’t won a World Cup 500m in either of the last two seasons.

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MORE: Shani Davis retires, takes new role in speed skating

Dutch speed skater won’t defend Olympic title after trials miss

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Dutch speed skater Michel Mulder was best in the world at 500m in Sochi by one hundredth of a second. Four years later, he’s sixth-best in his own country.

That means Mulder won’t defend his Olympic title in PyeongChang.

The Netherlands’ Olympic Speed Skating Trials swallowed a Sochi medalist for the second time in as many days Wednesday.

Mulder joined Jorrit Bergsma, who missed the team in the 5000m on the opening day in Heerenveen on Tuesday. Bergsma took bronze in a Dutch 5000m sweep in Sochi but was fourth at trials.

Both could still make the team — Mulder in the 1000m and Bergsma in the 10,000m. Bergsma won the Sochi Olympic 10,000m but has struggled this season. As has Mulder.

Mulder, 31, led a Dutch 500m sweep in Sochi, edging Jan Smeekens by .01 with twin brother Ronald Mulder taking bronze.

Ronald Mulder won the trials 500m in 34.49, followed by world sprint champion Kai Verbij and Smeekens, the reigning world 500m champion.

Ronald Mulder, the current World Cup 500m leader, and Verbij are virtually guaranteed Olympic spots, while Smeekens will likely also get in.

Michel Mulder hasn’t made a World Cup podium in more than three years. In summer 2016, he ruptured an ankle ligament while attempting a high jump in a Dutch TV special ahead of the Rio Olympics.

Threats to another Dutch 500m sweep in PyeongChang are Russians Pavel Kulizhnikov and Ruslan Murashov, who own the two fastest 500m times ever.

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MORE: Broadcast schedule for all U.S. Olympic Trials

UPDATE: U.S. Speedskating gets permission to change suits

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A disappointing Sochi Olympics thus far has caused U.S. Speedskating to ask Olympic and skating officials for the option of switching out of their new Under Armour suits – and UA’s senior vice president of innovation, Kevin Haley, has told the Associated Press that they’ve indeed received that option.

U.S. Speedskating president Mike Plant has issued the following statement on the matter:

“For the remainder of the Winter Olympic Games, Team USA speedskaters will be wearing the previously-approved Under Armour skin suits used during recent World Cup competition. Under Armour provided US Speedskating with three different suit configurations in advance of Sochi, and we have full confidence in the performance benefits of each of them. We are constantly evaluating all aspects of race preparation and execution to help our athletes improve their output and maximize their physical and psychological advantages. Under Armour’s mission is to make all athletes better, and they are working tirelessly with Team USA to ensure each athlete steps on the ice with 100% confidence so they are positioned to capture a spot on the podium. US Speedskating is proud of its long-term, successful partnership with Under Armour, and we all look forward to the upcoming races.”

Through the first six speedskating events in Sochi, the best result for an American speedskater has been seventh.

The team’s biggest star, Shani Davis, tried his best to keep out of the suit conversation after a training session.

“I’m, uh, honestly being as optimistic as I can possibly be,” said Davis, who finished a surprising eighth in the 1000m, the race he had claimed gold in at Torino in 2006 and Vancouver in 2010.

“I’m just staying focused on the 1500, race. Suit or no suit, I’ve got to go out there and try to win.”

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One day after the men’s 1000m, Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe were unable to medal in that distance on the women’s side.

It’s led to a tough environment for the U.S. speedskaters.

“Morale is down right now,” Joey Mantia, a 1500m skater said. “We need to pick that up in the coming races.”

As for their rivals from the Netherlands, who have dominated so far in Sochi, it seems they’re not putting the Americans’ problems down to the suits.

“It could also be that they were just outclassed here,” said men’s 500m winner and 1000m bronze medalist Michel Mulder.