Sunday, September 25, 2022

Speed skating-Wust finds magic touch to claim record sixth gold

Ireen Wust became the most successful Olympic speed skater in history with 12 medals on Monday after sweeping round the Beijing oval to retain her title and win gold in the Winter Games 1,500 metres by just under half a second.
Victory put the Netherlands’ most decorated Olympian ahead of Germany’s Claudia Pechstein, who won five skating golds, and tied her with USSR skater Lidia Skoblikova who won six.
Wust’s 12 medals also put her joint third on the list for most podium finishes for men or women at the Winter Olympics.
“This is just amazing. There’s a lot of different emotions going through my mind right now. I mean, it’s just bizarre that I was able to pull it off once again… I just have no words for it,” Wust said.
“There’s something magical that gets to me when it comes down to the Games. There’s something at the Games that brings out the best in me.”
The reigning champion set the pace with an Olympic record time of 1:53.28, then waited anxiously with her head in her hands as world record holder Miho Takagi of Japan failed to match it in the final race.
“She had to skate the last pair, so I was really nervous because I thought maybe she would beat it… I was too nervous to watch because I know Miho is a really great skater especially on the 1500m,” Wust said.
Takagi started strongly, shaving three tenths of a second off Wust’s first lap, but by the 700m mark she had dropped behind and failed to close the gap.
As Wust cried and hugged team mates in joy, her rival appeared resigned.
“How I raced today? Um…,” Takagi said, lost for words at a news conference.
“I think today’s race is the result of the very best that I can do right now,” she said, her voice wavering slightly.
Takagi claimed silver for the second successive Olympics in 1:53.72 and another Dutchwoman, Antoinette de Jong, took bronze in 1:54.82.
Wust won 11 medals over four previous Games since her Olympic debut in Turin in 2006.
“Words can’t describe her class. I mean, she’s the greatest of all time as her performance shows,” said American Brittany Bowe, who finished 10th.
“Another Olympic gold medal in Olympic record fashion. I’m honoured to have competed against her for so many years and even more so to call her a friend.”