Sweden's Nils van der Poel stepped up to the starting line for Friday's men's 10,000m speed skating event with a good idea he had the win wrapped up.
“Going in, I thought I should be set to beat second," van der Poel said. "Technically, I didn’t have my best race but physically, I am in great shape."
He had loftier aspirations than simply winning the gold medal when he saw his time with five laps to go.
The 25-year-old Swedish athlete entered Friday's event with the world record in the 10,000m, and he topped his time with a 12:32.95 skate.
Each of his final five laps were better than the last as he flew to the finish. He did not skate a single 30-second lap in the closing 4400 meters of the race.
“I didn’t want to risk going too hard too early," van der Poel said. "With five laps to go I felt like the world record was in reach so I just went for that.”
Van der Poel skated in the fifth of six pairs, and he bested the field by 13.85 seconds. He had the fastest pace after the first 800 meters and the margin continued to widen.
The previous Olympic record was 12:39.77, so van der Poel nearly beat it by seven seconds.
Dutch skater Patrick Roest, who finished second in the men's 5000m, put together a time of 12:44.59 for his second silver medal of the Winter Olympics.
“It means a lot," Roest said. "I had a better chance in the 5000m, where I got silver. It's a good feeling to be back on the podium in not my best distance."
Roest set the Olympic record in the 5000m before van der Poel bested his time to win gold.
Italy's Davide Ghiotto came away with the bronze to earn his first Olympic medal. The 28-year-old competed at the same time as van der Poel, which may have helped push him. Ghiotto finished 12th in the same event at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Van der Poel is the first Swedish skater to win the 10,000m at the Winter Olympics since Tomas Gustafson in 1988. Gustafson also swept the long distances that year. Six men's 10,000m gold medals have been won by Swedish skaters, which is the second-most from one country behind the Netherlands with seven.
Speed skating returns on Saturday with the women's team pursuit and men's 500m. The event will begin at 3 a.m. ET.