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Dutch skater Wust eclipses Blankers-Koen with fifth gold

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Gangneung: Speed skater Ireen Wust surpassed legendary sprinter Fanny Blankers-Koen as she became the first Dutch athlete to win five Olympic gold medals yesterday.

Wust, 31, won the 1,500m at the Pyeongchang Winter Games in 1min, 54.35secs, defeating Japan's Miho Takagi by 0.2secs with Dutch standout Marrit Leenstra third in 1:55.26.

Wust also became the first speed skater in Olympic history to win 10 medals, eclipsing equestrian great Anky van Grunsven to become the most decorated Dutch Olympian. "I feel really happy and I still cannot believe it," Wust said. "For me it's incredible. Now I have achieved the dream."

Wust became the first Dutch Olympian to win five gold medals, breaking the career mark she had shared with 1948 four-time champion sprinter Blankers-Koen, swimmer Inge De Bruijn, cyclist Leontien van Moorsel and equestrian rider Charles Pahud de Mortanges. "I don't have any words for it, actually," Wust said.

The achievement came 12 years to the day since Wust won her first Olympic gold in the 3,000m at Turin. She added 1,500 gold in 2010 at Vancouver and won the 3,000 and team pursuit in 2014 at Sochi. "The bigger the race, the more important, the more I can get something out of my body," Wust said. "I'm more excited for big races. It's not that I'm afraid for it. I just love it."

Wust moved one shy of 1960s Soviet Union skater Lidia Skoblikova's all-time women's speed skating record of six golds, just two days after fading on the last lap and settling for second at 3,000m by 0.08secs.

"The tension was really high," Wust said. "Saturday I was disappointed. Silver is really good but gold is the only one for me."

This time, she was on lead pace again but charged to the finish, stretching her margin to the line to grab the top spot by more than a second, but with six racers remaining.

Leenstra edged European champion Lotte van Beek for third by 0.01secs but neither caught Wust ahead of the dramatic final pairing -- Takagi, the world's top-rated 1,500m skater, and world record-holder and world champion Heather Bergsma of the United States. "I wasn't watching," Wust said. "I could only look at the ground. I kept hearing it was close. It was exciting. Only the last straight I dared to watch."

Takagi threatened to become the first Japanese woman to win an Olympic speed skating title and claim only the third gold by any Japanese woman, but she could not eclipse Wust's pace. "I'm happy to have second place but I really wanted a gold medal," Takagi said. "So it was a little bit frustrating for me.
Four years ago I wasn't able to be at the Olympics, so I worked hard to be here and to get a silver medal, I'm very happy to have one."

That left only the podium ceremony, in which Wust leaped onto the top step and thrust her fists high into the air. She was wiping away tears before she descended.

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