Some observers noted the Olympic speed skating tournament to be the open Dutch Championships. The team from the Netherlands took 8 of the 12 titles at stake, and 23 of the 32 medals available to them. Such dominance had never been seen in any Olympic winter sport, and it also made the Netherlands the all-time top nation in the sport by any count. This success obviously was at the expense of other countries, notably historically strong nations. Germany had a medal drought, its first since Innsbruck 1964, while the US had medalled at every Olympics since Sarajevo 1984 (incidentally also the most recent Olympics without Dutch speed skating medals). Norway (25 golds) didn’t medal either, but that had also happened in 2006, while the host nation had expected more than three medals. By contrast, two nations produced an Olympic champion for the first time. Poland earned three medals, doubling its previous total and winning the men’s 1,500 m, while China finally earned a gold, after six medals since 1992. South Korea and Czech Republic had first won gold medals in Vancouver, and their top female skater s retained their titles.
Competitions were held at the Adler Arena, situated at the Olympic Park in the Coastal Cluster by the Black Sea. Destined to become an exhibition hall after the Games, it had seen only one major international competition prior to the Olympics: the World Single Distance Championships in 2013. All track records of that meet were duly beaten at the Olympics. Despite being virtually at sea level (altitude: 5 m), the rink proved quite fast, and in many races the world best marks for lowland rinks were approached, with Jorrit Bergsma beating the mark in the 10,000 m. Several Olympic Records set at high altitude in Salt Lake City were even beaten, as new marks were recorded in four individual events as well as both team pursuits.
No single skater dominated the competitions. Dutch skaters Ireen Wüst, Sven Kramer and Jorien ter Mors all earned two gold medals, but all won a single individual event, earning their second gold in the team pursuit. Wüst’s performance made her the equal sixth most successful speed skater in Olympic history, in terms of gold medals won, behind Lidiya Skoblikova, Claudia Pechstein, Clas Thunberg, Bonnie Blair and Eric Heiden.