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Bart Swings brings silver home to Belgium
From Flanders Today: Flemish speed skater Bart Swings is coming home from the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang with a silver medal. It’s only the sixth medal ever won by a Belgian at the Winter Olympics.
Swings (pictured) won the medal in the mass start, the first time the event has featured in Olympic speed skating in 86 years. The race has a much more complicated trajectory – and scoring system – than traditional speed skating, taking on a roller derby kind of feel as skaters jostle for position over 16 laps.
Swings has an advantage in that he started his athletics career as an in-line skater, making him familiar with mass starts (when competitors don’t stick to one lane). “It was a really tough race,” said Swings. “I was a bit intimidated by these super fast skaters, but I also felt really energetic. I couldn’t wait to get to the sprints; I was counting the laps to get to them.”
South Korea’s Lee Seung-Hoon won gold in the event on his home turf, while the Netherlands’ Koen Verweij took home bronze.
The last time a Belgian medalled at the Winter Olympics was 20 years ago, when Bart Veldkamp won bronze in the 5,000m speed skating event. In other races at these Games, Swings came in sixth in the 5,000m and 1,500m and eighth in the 10,000m.
In other results, Flemish snowboarder Seppe Smits just eked into the top 10 in slopestyle, as did Jelena Peeters in the women’s 5,000m speed skating event. Belgium’s bobsleigh teams came in 11th and 12th.
Belgium’s only male figure skater at the Games since 1952, Jorik Hendrickx, came in 14th, while Leona Hendrickx came in 16th for the women. The skaters, from Arendonk in Antwerp province, are brother and sister.
All results for Belgium’s 21 Winter Olympics athletes can be found on the Team Belgium website.
Photo: Dirk Waem/BELGA