The Speed Skating tournament at PyeongChang 2018 starts with an exciting clash of generations in the ladies’ 3000m. 31-year-old Ireen Wüst (NED) and 30-year-old Martina Sáblíková (CZE) shared the past three Olympic 3000m gold medals between them. Wüst won in Torino 2006, Sáblíková in Vancouver 2010 and in Sochi 2014 it was Wüst again, but this season Miho Takagi (JPN) and Antoinette de Jong (NED) knocked on the door.
The 23-year-old Japanese Takagi has dominated the 1500m this World Cup season, but she also won the 3000m World Cup race in Calgary breaking the 16-year-old Japanese record by Maki Tabata (4:01.01) with 3:57.09 last December. Takagi did not make it into the Japanese Olympic team for Sochi four years ago, but she already made her Olympic debut at age 15 at the Vancouver 2010 Games, coming 23rd in the 1500m and 35th in the 1000m.
De Jong seeks Sochi redemption
De Jong (NED), a team mate of Wüst’s in the same trade team, won this year’s first World Cup 3000m in hometown Heerenveen. The 22-year-old Dutch skater made her Olympic debut four years ago coming 7th in the 3000m. She can build upon experience, but she also seeks redemption. “Despite having skated well throughout the year, things did not work out well at the games”, she said about Sochi. “It was a huge disappointment at the time.”
Not all eggs in one basket for Blondin
In the clash of generations Ivanie Blondin (CAN) is somewhere in the middle. At 27, the Canadian won the last World Cup race in the run-up to PyeongChang in Erfurt (GER) late January. It was the first World Cup win in a ‘classic’ distance for Blondin, who became Mass Start World Champion in 2016. She does not want to put all her eggs in one basket in PyeongChang: “The Mass Start is so unpredictable, so I don’t want to rely solely on that,” she said in Erfurt.
Ladies 3000m Podium - ISU World Cup in Erfurt Germany. (L-R) Antoinette de Jong of the Netherlands, Ivanie Blondin of Canada and Martina Sablikova of Czech Republic.
Young Voronina and veteran Pechtstein
Natalia Voronina (OAR) joins the younger generation, challenging Wüst and Sáblíková. The 23-year-old Olympic Athlete from Russia won the 3000m World Cup race in Salt Lake City in December, thus stating her candidacy for the Olympic podium.
Claudia Pechstein (GER) adds a third generation to the 3000m battle for silverware. At age 45 she does seem to have lost the pure speed for the 1500m or 3000m races, but she managed to win both the 5000m World Cup race in Stavanger and the Mass Start World Cup race in Calgary. “It’s incredible, I could be their mother”, Pechtstein laughed in Calgary. The German six-time Olympian already won Olympic 3000m gold in Salt Lake city in 2002.