Irene Wust reclaims Olympic crown in women's 3000m speed skating
Canadians fall short of podium
Irene Wust didn't appreciate being unseated as Olympic champion, so she decided to take her title back.
The Dutch legend captured her second gold medal in the 3,000 metres on Sunday to go with the gold she won in 2006 in Turin. She finished 7th in the event in Vancouver in 2010.
Wust clocked a winning time of 4:00:34. Czech superstar Martina Sablikova, the defending Olympic champion, took the silver with a time of 4:01:95, while Russian Olga Graf surprised the rest of the field by coming in at 4:03:47 to take bronze and give the host country its first medal.
Two Canadians were in the field at the Alder Arena Skating Center, but both finished well back of the podium. Brittany Schussler, competing in her third Olympics, finished 19th, while Ivanie Blondin, making her Olympic debut, was 24th.
For the 27-year-old Wust, the victory means that she temporarily holds two Olympic titles, as she finished first in the 1,500 metres in Vancouver in 2010. She will attempt to defend her title next Sunday, when the 1,500 metre event takes place.
The medal total for the Netherlands now stands at four, including two gold. Sablikova’s silver is the second medal of the Games for the Czech Republic, while Graf’s bronze in front of the home fans broke the goose egg for Russia.
The 3,000 metre distance is the second-longest of the long-track events after the 5,000 metres, and consists of 7.5 laps around the 400-metre oval. Athletes compete in pairs, skating counter-clockwise and switching lanes at the end of every lap.
Decorated Olympian can’t turn back time
Claudia Pechstein, at nearly 42 years of age, just missed the podium with a fourth place finish. Already the most successful German Winter Olympian of all time, Pechstein was hoping to add a 10th medal to her totals, but she ran out of gas over the last couple of laps and her time didn't hold up against the final skaters.
The German star was making her return to the Olympics after serving a controversial two-year ban for blood doping. Pechstein never actually failed a drug test, but the International Skating Union deemed her blood count suspicious and issued the suspension, even though she maintains the test result was caused by a genetic condition inherited from her father.
An arbitration court upheld the ISU’s decision, and the celebrated skater has since filed a lawsuit against the ISU and the German Speed Skating Association.
Rough start for Canada's long track skaters
It was a day to forget for the Canadian contingent, as both Schussler and Blondin just couldn’t find a higher gear today.
"The ice is slow, it's a slow track," said Schussler. "This was my slowest international race of the year. I think that was everybody's slowest international race of the year."
Schussler, who lives in Calgary but calls Winnipeg home, came in at 4:14.65, well off her personal best of 4:03:23. Ottawa’s Blondin was four seconds behind her at 4:18:70, compared with her own personal best of 4:07:86.
The Canadian team entered these Olympics in rebuilding mode, as many of the team's top skaters have recently hung up their skates or are entering the twilight of their careers.
Schussler was hoping to erase the bad memories of 2010, when she was part of a trio that expected to contend for gold, but instead bowed out in the quarterfinals. She and Blondin will get another chance at a medal in the team pursuit later on in the Games.
Both skaters will also compete in next week’s 1,500 metres, an event they both perform much better in.
"It would have taken a lot for me to win a medal today," admitted Schussler. "A lot of people would have had to fall."