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Canadian ice maker denies Dutch influenced conditions at Olympic speed skating oval


‘It’s my reputation on the line … I’m very upset with this story and the way it’s developed,’ explained Messer, denying any influence on the oval

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BEIJING – The Canadian ice maker for the National Speed Skating Oval at the Beijing Olympics denied on Wednesday a media report suggesting the Dutch team was leaning on him to make conditions favourable for their skaters.

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A website in the Netherlands quoted Dutch team scientist Sander van Ginkel last weekend as saying he shared tests and measurements with ice maker Mark Messer.

“By showing how I came up with my measurements, I hope to convince Messer and his people of my ideas. What I mainly try to do is to give them new information. For example, he now knows that the ice temperature is slightly above zero just after a resurfacing break,” Van Ginkel was quoted as saying.

“Messer understands that I share things like this with him because our team can benefit from it when the conditions are optimal … Look, ultimate responsibility for the ice remains with Messer at all times. By naming things and continuing to insist on adjustments that are in our favour, we can achieve something more.”

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At his hotel in Beijing, Messer told Reuters it was totally false to infer he was bowing to pressure. The article showed pictures of Van Ginkel talking to him and testing the rink.

“The actual conversation that goes with that picture is me telling him not to come back, because I’m not going to tell him anything that I’m not going to tell every other country. But they have twisted this around,” said Messer.

“It’s my reputation on the line … I’m very upset with this story and the way it’s developed,” added the ice maker, who is based at the Calgary Olympics Oval and has worked at six Olympics.

Canadian Ice Master Mark Messer (2nd L) uses a fire extinguisher to repair the ice at the 2006 Olympic speedskating venue “The Oval Lingotto” as his colleagues watch during a team practise for the World Cup Speed Skating tournament in Turin December 8, 2005
Canadian Ice Master Mark Messer (2nd L) uses a fire extinguisher to repair the ice at the 2006 Olympic speedskating venue “The Oval Lingotto” as his colleagues watch during a team practise for the World Cup Speed Skating tournament in Turin December 8, 2005 Photo by Jerry Lampen/File Photo /REUTERS

FAIR PLAY
The Netherlands has traditionally dominated the sport, winning the highest total number of medals in speed skating with 121 medals overall and 42 gold medals.

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Sweden’s 5,000 metres speed skating gold medallist Nils van der Poel said that results would be called into question if fair play had been abused.

“Either they (the Dutch skating association) are actually trying to make the ice beneficial for the Dutch skaters, that’s an abomination … Or they are writing an article, releasing it on the day of the start of the Olympics, because they want to conduct a psychological operation towards the other skaters.”

The technical director of the Dutch skating association Remy de Wit said his team believed in fair play and he did not think their scientist had any influence over the ice.

“Our scientist is here to make sure we have the right knowledge about the ice that has been made by the ice-makers,” he said.

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“I can understand that the words (in the article) could be interpreted in an unlucky way. They could have been chosen differently. I am not responsible for what’s written in those articles.”

When asked for comment from van Ginkel, the Dutch team said in a statement that he measures the ice temperature and climate at every tournament and had spoken “in general with the ice masters in Beijing about all topics concerning the climate in the oval. Nothing more, nothing less.”

“We all love to hold skating competitions under the best circumstances, equal for all competitors: a level playing field. This is what the conversations were about. But if this mutual interest of ice specialists has led to inconvenience at the Swedish team we feel sorry for that,” the statement said.

There was no comment on the matter from Olympics organizers.

(Reporting by Sakura Murakami; Additional reporting by Anthony Deutsch and Bart H. Meijer in Amsterdam and Tommy Lund in Gdansk; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Christian Radnedge)

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