Sochi, Russia- (8 February 2014) – Day One of Olympic competition is underway for New Zealand with long track speed skater Shane Dobbin, fresh from carrying the flag at the opening ceremony, racing against Russian Ivan Skobrev in Sochi’s Adler Arena.
The 5,000m race, a time trial contested in pairs, was a tough fought competition between the Dutch skating trio of Kramer, Bergsma and Blokhuisjsen aiming for the top three spots and Skobrev who was competing as the hometown favourite. In the end the team from the Netherlands took gold, silver and bronze and Dobbin finished 14th with a time of 6.26.90 in the 26-strong field.
The 34 year old described his race as putting him on track for next week’s 10,000. “It was about bang-on actually, the result itself is probably not that good ending up at 14th, but the goal was to set about 30.8 seconds per lap and pretty sure I averaged 30.6, a little faster that I thought I would," he said.
“For the 10k I’m probably looking at 31.4 average so I’ve got about ¾ of a second to play with. I’m pretty confident I can let it slip and stay relaxed for the extra 12 laps. “If you were to break down the race my last two or three laps were the quickest and that’s a good sign going into the 10K," he said.
"After another two or three laps I would have been theoretically in front of the others," he added of the competitors, including the Dutch skaters, that would compete in the 10,000m.
Racing Skobrev, who finished in 7th, Dobbin said had to try not to chase him too closely and risk a blow-out. The enthusiastic home crowd also hindered information coming from coach Kalon Dobbin.
“I couldn’t hear my coach – had to wing it and I had to rely on hand signals and lap boards to know the time I was doing. You’ve just got to pretend in your own mind it was for you.”
Asked how carrying the flag in the Opening Ceremony affected his performance today, Dobbin said the ceremony did not add any additional strain. “I was only out of the village for about an hour and a half – not much different than going for dinner. Just a different atmosphere.”
Up in the Caucasus Mountains the rest of the New Zealand Olympic Team rested after participating in last night’s stunning Opening Ceremony. New Zealand’s snowboard slopestyle women stand by for semi-finals and finals taking place tomorrow (Sunday Sochi time).