RICHMOND, British Columbia --- With a couple of laps to go in a race he was a lock to win, Sven Kramer sensed something might be wrong. He glanced toward his girlfriend in the stands, surely expecting a big smile.
Instead, her face was buried in her hands.
"I thought this is not good," Kramer said.
After crossing the line faster than anyone in the 10,000 meters, Kramer learned he skated the final eight laps in the wrong lane Tuesday. The amateurish blunder could be blamed on his coach but, in the end, the greatest long-distance speedskater in the world paid for the mistake in the worst way.
No gold. No silver. No bronze. Nothing.
He flung away his orange-rimmed glasses in disgust after learning his coach, Gerard Kemkers, sent him to the wrong lane on a changeover with a certain victory in sight. The Dutchman was disqualified and Lee Seung-hoon of South Korea got the top step on the podium with a time that was more than 4 seconds slower than Kramer's.
"It is pretty hard now," Kramer said. "I was on my way to make the right decision and right before the corner, I changed my decision because of the advice from the (coach). At the end of the day, it is my responsibility. I am the skater on the ice. I have to do it."
Lee realized the mistake before Kramer even finished, hugging his coaches on the infield.
The mistake occurred after Kramer came off the first turn in the inside lane, which meant it was time for him to shift over to the outside lane by the end of the back straightaway.
As Kramer approached the cone that divides the two lanes, Kemkers motioned furiously for him to shift to the inside.
Kramer knew he was supposed to go outside -- he already was heading in that direction -- but he made a split-second decision to abide by his coach's pleas.
Kramer actually went directly across the cone, one leg on each side of it, before hopping into the inside lane.
He didn't know it then, but his race was over.