Sochi Scene -- Skating Fed Defends 10K; Ligety Relishes Gold

(ATR) International Skating Union defends 10,000 meters Olympic inclusion ... U.S. skier enjoys Sochi gold more than Turin.

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 19:  (L-R) Silver medalist Sven Kramer of the Netherlands, gold medalist Jorrit Bergsma of the Netherlands and bronze medalist Bob de Jong of the Netherlands celebrate on the podium during the medal ceremony for the Men's 10000m Speed Skating on day twelve of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at at Medals Plaza on February 19, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 19: (L-R) Silver medalist Sven Kramer of the Netherlands, gold medalist Jorrit Bergsma of the Netherlands and bronze medalist Bob de Jong of the Netherlands celebrate on the podium during the medal ceremony for the Men's 10000m Speed Skating on day twelve of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at at Medals Plaza on February 19, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

The International Skating Union defends the men’s 10,000 meters after a mass withdrawal from the race Tuesday left only 14 competitors.

Tron Espeli of Norway, the ISU technical delegate, said the ISU "regrets" the withdrawals but wants to keep the 10,000 meters on the Olympic program for 2018.

Skaters from the Netherlands went 1-2-3 for their fourth speedskating sweep of the 2014 Winter Games with Jorrit Bergsma and Sven Kramer winning their second medals in Sochi.

"It is only interesting for the Dutch," said Dmitriy Babenko of Kazakhstan, who was 12th, according to the Olympic News Service. Babenko added that the 10,000 is "another race that is not interesting to watch for the spectators."

The IOC could take note. It has already discussed eliminating disciplines or events within sports to keep the program evolving, and the 10,000 could be vulnerable.

"We are receiving feedback from the IOC that they are reconsidering individual events within one sport in which the same contenders are competing for medals," Espeli said.

But Patrick Meek of the U.S., who was 11th, said eliminating the race would be "absolutely crazy. People can speculate all they want and this conversation comes up every eight years or so, but I think more than anything we have to re-evaluate how the programs are set up at the Olympics.

"Some of the most iconic moments in speedskating were at the 10,000 meters. I think even suggesting that we should do away with this race is completely asinine."

Espeli acknowledged that the Sochi competition schedule contributed to athletes -- including those from Norway -- scratching from the 10K because they wanted to save their energy for the team pursuit event.

He said the ISU will talk about the order of events on the schedule.

"We already discussed the sequence before Sochi, but now that it has proven to be awkward, we will look into it again," Espeli said.

At its congress in June, Espeli said the ISU also will discuss adding a mass start event to the Olympic program in 2018.

He said the mass start has been on the World Cup program since 2011 and will be on the ISU Championships program starting in 2015.

"We meet the requirements, but the final decision will be made by the IOC," Espeli said.

Alexej Baumgaertner of Germany, who finished 13th, said he could understand why races with two skaters going head-to-head for 10,000 meters could be replaced by the mass start "because the audience gets bored."

Ligety Relishes Sochi Gold

Ted Ligety, the first male skier from the United States with two gold medals, says his second medal means more than his first.

Ligety won the men’s giant slalom event on Saturday. He won the combined event in Turin.

"It’s definitely quite a bit different," Ligety said of his win. In 2006, at age 21, Ligety said, "I was more there in just awe in the whole spectacle of the Olympics. To win a gold medal was surreal, but it doesn’t have the same meaning as this one does.

"Not that it was easy, but it came easier than this one."

He struggled in Vancouver, failing to win a medal, and had a lackluster World Cup season. He said both of these added to the special nature of his Sochi gold medal.

"This one means a lot more."

Written by Karen Rosen and Ed Hula III

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