Sablikova defended her Olympic speedskating title in the women’s 5,000 meters Wednesday, knocking the Netherlands off the top step of the medal podium. The 26-year-old from the Czech Republic set a track record at Adler Arena with a time of 6 minutes, 51.54 seconds.
It’s not like the Dutch didn’t show up.
They added two more medals to their record haul, as Ireen Wust took the silver in 6:54.28, while 35-year-old mother Carien Kleibeuker grabbed the bronze in 6:55.66.
It was Wust’s fourth medal of the Sochi Games, added to a gold in the 3,000 and silvers in the 1,000 and 1,500.
Racing against Sablikova in the seventh of eight pairs, Wust knew she had to push the pace early and hope to hang on. She built a sizeable lead but began to fade just past the midway point.
Sablikova went right on by [--] and never slowed up.
The standings were a reversal of the 3,000, when Wust beat Sablikova to deny the Czech skater a shot at repeating as a double gold medalist in the two longest women’s events. But Sablikova was determined to hang on to her title in the 5,000, even dropping the 1,500 [--] an event she won bronze in four years ago [--] to focus her preparation fully on the final individual speedskating race of these games.
The strategy paid off with another gold.
The Dutch speedskaters have now won 21 medals overall, more than every country in Sochi except Russia and the United States. The Netherlands will be big favorites in both team pursuit races, the only events left at Adler Arena, giving Wust a shot at a fifth medal in Sochi.
Forty-one-year-old Claudia Pechstein of Germany was denied again in her quest for a 10th career medal. She finished fifth, missing the podium by less than 3 seconds.
The lone American in the race, three-time Olympian Maria Lamb of River Falls, Wis., was last among the 16 skaters, more than 38 seconds off Sablikova’s winning time. The U.S. team has yet to win a medal in Sochi.
Kleibeuker was the oldest female speedskater to represent the Netherlands at the Winter Games. After the flower ceremony, she scooped up her 5-year-old daughter for a victory lap around the infield.
Kleibeuker was 10th in the 5,000 at the 2006 Turin Games, where she witnessed a bribery attempt by two members of the Dutch speedskating team. This time, the Olympics were all about her results on the ice.
Pechstein won the 5,000 three straight times starting with the 1994 Lillehammer Games, and also had a silver and a bronze in the grueling event. She was determined to win another medal in Sochi after being banned from the Vancouver Games over a doping case which was based on abnormal blood levels rather than a positive test.
She steadfastly denied any wrongdoing, kept on skating and qualified for her sixth Olympics at an age when most skaters have long since retired. But Pechstein couldn’t make the podium in Sochi, finishing fourth in the 3,000, one spot worse in the 5,000, and 19th in the 1,500.
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