The National Today

Canada wins a gold, but can't catch Netherlands in speed-skating podium race

A deeper dive into the day's most notable stories with The National newsletter's Jonathon Gatehouse.

Newsletter: A deeper dive into the day's most notable stories

Ted-Jan Bloemen of Canada celebrates Thursday after winning the gold medal in the men's 10,000 metre speed skating competition finals. (John Sibley/Reuters)

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TODAY:

  • Canada's Ted-Jan Bloemen wins gold in 10,000 metre race, but it's the Netherlands dominating speed-skating spotlight at Winter Games
  • Seventeen murders in a school via the barrel of an assault rifle is barely enough to make list of America's top-10 gun horrors
  • President Emmanuel Macron is distancing himself — literally — from French media by moving press office


Dutch treat

Ten kilometres in 12 minutes 13:77 seconds.

At the Gangneung Oval this morning, it took Canada's Ted-Jan Bloemen an average of just over 30 seconds to skate each of his 25 circuits around the 400-metre track. A feat of incredible endurance that brought him an Olympic gold.

Ted-Jan Bloemen took gold in the 10,000 metre final with a time of 12 minutes 13:77 seconds. (Lucy Nicholso/Reuters)
The record-setting performance was part of a three-medal day for Canada, following a pairs figure skating bronze for Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, and a luge team relay silver for Alex Gough, Sam Edney, Justin Snith and Tristan Walker.

The medal haul moved Canada back into third place overall, behind Norway and Germany.

But Bloemen's 10,000 metre speed skating win — a second Pyeongchang medal to go with his 5,000 metre silver — also snapped the Netherlands' all-out dominance at the oval.

Bloemen, 31, was born in the Netherlands and moved to Calgary four years ago to skate for Canada. (Dean Mouhtaropoulo/Getty Images)
Halfway through the competition, the Dutch have now won five out six available golds and 10 of the 18 medals handed out.

Although there's a big asterisk.

The 31-year-old Bloemen was born in the Netherlands and is a product of their skating system. Bloemen moved to Calgary four years ago to skate for Canada because he was frustrated with the level of support he was receiving. He was eligible for Canadian citizenship because his father was born in New Brunswick.

The nations with the top Olympic medal counts as of Feb. 15, 2018. (CBC)
The Dutch have always been a force in speed skating, having won 115 of their all-time 122 Winter Olympic medals in the sport. (Three of the remaining seven have come in short-track.)

But now the country seems to compete at a different level.

Gold medalist Kjeld Nuis, right, and silver medalist Patrick Roest, both of the Netherlands, celebrate after the men's 1,500 metre speed skating final. (Phil Noble/Reuters)
Four years ago in Sochi, the Netherlands captured eight of the 12 golds, and 23 of the 36 available medals. The rest of the world divvied up the remaining 13, led by Russia and Poland with three each, and Canada with two medals — a silver and a bronze.

Things used to be more evenly matched at the Olympic oval. In Vancouver the Dutch took home just seven medals, including three gold. (Canada won two speed skating golds and a total of five medals.)

In Turin in 2006, the Netherlands captured nine medals. The U.S. won seven and Canada — powered by Cindy Klassen's five-medal performance — finished with eight.

Jorien Ter Mors of the Netherlands celebrates winning the women's 1,000-metre speed skating gold, jumping into the photo behind silver medallist Nao Kodaira, right, and bronze medallist Miho Takagi, both of Japan. ( Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
And in Salt Lake City in 2002, the Netherlands tied the Germans and the Americans, all of whom finished with eight medals apiece.

During the Opening Ceremony last weekend, NBC's Katie Couric suggested that the new Dutch dominance might have something to do with all those frozen canals. (Social media users sensed a teachable moment and she has since tweeted her apologies.)

A more plausible explanation is the professionalization of speed skating in Holland.

The country now boasts eight pro teams that support 80 full-time skaters. There's also a national junior program with 7,500 members; a big pipeline for new talent.

Gold medalist Ireen Wust, right, and bronze medalist Marrit Leenstra, both of the Netherlands, on the podium after the women's 1,500 metre speed skating race. (Reuters)
However, the growing gap between the Netherlands and the rest of the speed skating world is a definite source of frustration for their competitors.

Earlier this week, Canada's Ivanie Blondin, a strong medal contender, had some choice words after finishing sixth in the women's 3,000 metre race, and watching her Dutch rivals sweep the podium.

"I can't really explain the Dutch sweeping," she told reporters. "It happened in Sochi and it happened now, and we haven't really seen it in four years. Explanation? I have no idea."


Follow all the results and get a full broadcast schedule at CBC's online Olympic hub.

The National can be found at its regular time on CBC News Network, as well as streamed on YouTube and Facebook, for the duration of the Games.


America's ranking of sorrows

Seventeen murders via the barrel of an assault rifle is barely enough to make the list of America's top-10 gun horrors.

Yesterday's body count at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., ranks just eighth among modern-day massacres in the United States.

Kristi Gilroy, right, hugs a young woman at a police checkpoint near the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were killed by a gunman on Wednesday. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Last October's rampage in Las Vegas, which left 59 dead, occupies the top spot.

It's followed by the Pulse Nightclub shootings in Orlando, Fla., the year before, in which 49 innocents were killed.

The Virginia Tech gunman in 2007 took 32 lives.

In the heartbreaking 2012 tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., 27 were slaughtered.

In a Sutherland Springs, Texas, church just three months ago, 26 people died.

People are brought out of the school under armed police guard after the shooting. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
After that, there is some time and distance — 23 killed in Killeen, Texas, in 1991. And 21 murdered at a San Diego-area McDonald's in 1984.

Shootings in San Bernardino, Calif., in 2015, and Edmond, Okla., in 1986, which each left 14 dead, round out the ranking of sorrows.

And tragically, all indications are that it won't be long before those massacres are again equalled or surpassed.

There have been 18 gun incidents at American schools since the beginning of January. They have taken a total of 21 lives and wounded 36 people, including 14 yesterday in Florida.

To date, there have been 41 mass shootings in the United States this new year, with the current death toll standing at 80 people.

Late this morning, U.S. President Donald Trump addressed his nation, conveying his "deepest sympathies" to the people of Florida and his determination to assist them in "any way that we can."

U.S. President Donald Trump addressed the nation from the White House on Thursday to talk about the Florida mass shooting. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)
"No child, no teacher should ever be in danger in an American school. No parent should ever have to fear for their sons and daughters when they kiss them goodbye in the morning," Trump said.

The president read a passage of scripture and committed to working with state and local authorities to "secure schools" and tackle the "difficult issue of mental health."

The only mention of gun control came as he left the podium.

"Why is this happening in America?," asked a reporter. "Will you do something about guns?"

Trump did not respond.


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Macron and the press

In his New Year's address to the media last month, Emmanuel Macron got to musing about the need for politicians to keep a "healthy distance" from the press.  

"The closeness which we had on occasions got used to was, I think, neither good for those in government nor for the journalists," he said. "It sometimes led to more importance being given to backroom chatter than to official comments."

French President Emmanuel Macron is moving the media out of the Élysée Palace, putting distance between the press office and his own. (Eric Piermont/AFP/Getty Images)
Yesterday, the French President revealed how he intends to find that space — by booting the media out of the Élysée Palace.

For the past four decades, members of France's press have occupied some prime real estate within the 18th-century château — a room overlooking the courtyard outside the president's office.

The vantage point has given news agencies, newspapers and television networks a simple way to keep tabs on the President's comings and goings, as well as who is popping in for a visit.

The new plan, according the Macron's communications chief Sibeth Ndiaye, is to move reporters to a palace annex down the street "in order to make [the press space] bigger."

Macron's public relations adviser Sibeth Ndiaye, right, says journalists are being moved to a new space down the street from the President's office, 'in order to make [the press space] bigger.' (Thierry Zoccolan/AFP/Getty Images)
The current office will be converted into a meeting room for the president's advisors.

Ndiaye told the media that it's nothing personal, but others who are close to the president have characterized it as part of a drive to curtail press "privileges."

The 40-year-old Macron used the media to great advantage in his campaign for the presidency, gracing magazine covers and staging savvy PR stunts. Since he took office in May 2017, the French public have gotten used to seeing him pose with pop stars, dress like Top Gun, or rappel down a rope from a helicopter onto the deck of a submarine.

Macron speaks to the captain and crew of the submarine Le Terrible from the operations centre of the vessel on July 4, 2017. (Fred Tanneau/AFP/Getty Images)
But his working relationship with the press has been fraught.

The was a public protest over coverage restrictions during his first overseas trip to Mali. And loud complaints when members of his En Marche party — including some cabinet ministers — filed formal harassment complaints with France's media watchdog in an effort to force reporters to reveal their sources.

Macron would also like to see some new laws governing the fourth estate.

During his New Year's address, the president revealed a plan to combat the spread of "fake news" on social media.

"If we want to protect liberal democracies, we must have strong legislation," Macron said. "There will be increased transparency requirements for internet platforms regarding sponsored content, with the aim of making public the identity of those who place the ads and also limiting the amount of them."

Macron's government has a formal plan for fighting what has been termed 'fake news.' (Ludovic Marin/Associated Press)
The president also called for new emergency powers for judges, allowing them to delete content, close accounts and block access to offending websites.

The fight against fake news is one of the few areas of common ground that Macron has with Donald Trump. But if he succeeds in moving the press out of the Élysée, he will have done one better than the U.S. president.

Early in his term, Trump announced a similar plan to move the White House press room to the neighbouring Old Executive Office Building.

Trump quickly backed down if the face of negative press.


Quote of the moment

"Today, in 2018, it is not acceptable for a minister to have a sexual relationship with somebody who works for them. It is a very bad workplace practice."

- Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, announcing a ban on sexual relations between cabinet ministers and their staff. His government has been thrown into turmoil by the revelation that his deputy, Barnaby Joyce, has left his wife and family for his now-pregnant media adviser.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull listens to a question about Barnaby Joyce during Question Time on Wednesday in Canberra, Australia. (Michael Masters/Getty Images)

What The National is reading

  • Cyril Ramaphosa elected South Africa's new president (CBC)
  • One-quarter of Shaw's employees take buyout (Toronto Star)
  • Ethiopian Prime Minister resigns amidst anti-government protests (BBC)
  • Will Japan be the next to build 'the bomb'? (The Daily Beast)
  • Stop 'cozying up' to Turkey, Merkel told (Deutsche Welle)
  • Yukon Arctic Ultra racer may lose hands, feet to frostbite (CBC)
  • World's tallest wooden skyscraper to tower over Tokyo (International Business Times)

Today in history

Feb. 15, 1978: Being Chewbacca — Peter Mayhew on Beyond Reason

"The talented actor who is seven-feet-tall and beloved by all," pays a visit to CBC's paranormal version of Front Page Challenge. An astrologer, graphologist and clairvoyant peg him as an actor, but no one mentions Han, the Millennium Falcon, or a bandolier.

The Star Wars actor is the mystery guest on CBC's paranormal game show. 9:36

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About the Author

Jonathon Gatehouse

Jonathon Gatehouse

Has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, including seven Olympic Games and a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey.