By Simon Jennings
GANGNEUNG, South Korea (Reuters) - Canada's Ted-Jan Bloemen produced an inspired display of impeccable technique to claim gold in the men's 10,000 metres on Thursday in an Olympic record time of 12 minutes and 39.77 seconds.
Defending champion Jorrit Bergsma of the Netherlands had to settle for silver and Italian Nicola Tumolero took the bronze medal.
Sochi silver medalist Sven Kramer of the Netherlands, one of the favorites for gold, finished in a disappointing sixth place as his curse in the longest Olympic distance struck again.
Bloemen was overcome by emotion when he realized Kramer, who raced in the last pair, was not going to beat his time.
The 31-year-old sank to the side of the track and covered his face in his hands as tears streamed down his cheeks. He found the energy to leap into the air in celebration after taking his place on the podium.
"I always felt from deep inside that I was able to do something special on the ice but I was never able to show it," Bloemen told reporters.
Bloemen was born and raised in the Netherlands but opted to race for Canada in 2014 after failing to qualify for the last Olympics. He was the first Canadian to win an individual Olympic speed skating event since Gaetan Boucher in 1984.
"I had to find a different way to do it because I kind of hit a wall in my career (in the Netherlands)," he added. "I found that different way and I got way more than I ever would have hoped."
Bloemen, the world record holder, faced a daunting task as Bergsma, who raced in the pair before him, shaved 2.46 seconds of the Olympic record he set in Sochi.
But the Canadian displayed nerves of steel, producing a tremendous effort to beat the Dutchman by 2.22 seconds.
He was a picture of poise on the ice, skating evenly and staying under the punishing pace set by Bergsma through the grueling 25-lap race, before ending with a late burst of speed.
"It was a good time but I wasn't sure it was going to be enough," Bergsma said. Ted-Jan was skating a really good race.
"He was skating under my time and I knew if he kept going like he was he would beat me and he could also push it a little bit to the end. He's the deserving champion."
Kramer, roared on by an entire Dutch nation willing him to victory, ran out of steam in the Olympic event in which gold has consistently eluded him.
At the Vancouver Games eight years ago, Kramer finished first but was disqualified for choosing the wrong lane after his coach gave him the wrong instructions.
He struggled to hold on to third place on Thursday before steadily losing pace over the last quarter of the race.
"It wasn't good enough. I had a pretty tough race," Kramer said. "I didn't come in the flow right away and I couldn't bring the laps down. Nothing went my way today."
(Reporting by Simon Jennings, editing by Ed Osmond)