Ladies 3000m Podium ©Getty Images
The Netherlands grabbed the first three long track Speed Skating medals of PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games, sweeping the podium in the ladies’ 3000m. Carlijn Achtereekte (NED) was the surprise winner in 3 minutes, 59.21 seconds, beating defending champion Ireen Wüst (NED) by 0.08 seconds. Antoinette de Jong (NED) took bronze in 4:00.02.
Achtereekte was the only one who seemed not to be surprised that she was on the podium. She hardly got any press attention in the run-up to the Games and that played to her advantage, she said:
“It was relatively quiet last week. They handed me the underdog position for free and that’s exactly my strength. If you’ve got the pressure, it’s more difficult. I did not have that pressure. I could skate freely and I knew the podium was a possibility if I could skate the times I skate in training. I was happy to skate before the others. but you still have to skate the race of your life and focus on what you have to do. I stuck to my plan and it worked out well.”
???? “I feel so good. I thought I have to skate the best race of my life and I did it and I won, that’s incredible” - Ladies 3000m Olympic Champion @Carlijn_A— ISU Speed Skating (@ISU_Speed) February 10, 2018
#️⃣ #SpeedSkating #PyeongChang2018 pic.twitter.com/raHF7zXvHj
First under 4 minutes
Ida Njåtun (NOR) set the pace in the ladies’ 3000m. She stopped to clock at 4:06.67 in the first pair versus Bo-Reum Kim (KOR). The Korean, who tore her anterior cruciate ligament in 5000m at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, was loudly cheered on by the home crowd and finished in 4:12.79 to become 18th. Njåtun eventually had to settle for 12th place.
Achtereekte was the first to beat the 4-minute barrier in 3.59.21 and went into the lead with still half the competition to go. After having skated in the fifth pair she had a nerve-wrecking wait, with one pair before and seven pairs after the ice-cleaning break yet to come. One after another bit the dust.
Ireen Wüst (NED) ©Getty Images
Disappointed, not devastated
Wüst (NED), already the Dutch record Olympian, was aiming to become the first Dutch athlete to win five Olympic gold medals. She got very close. Halfway through her race the defending champion was 1.5 seconds faster than her compatriot, but she struggled in the final lap and eventually came 0.08 seconds short.
Achtereekte had been nervous, but confident too: “I won it in the last lap. That’s my power. I skate really flat. I was not surprised that Ireen started faster.”
Wüst was disappointed, but not devastated: “I went out there for gold. I had a schedule for 3.57, and it went well until that final lap. in the end I’m also proud. I’m on the podium for the fourth consecutive Games and it’s my ninth medal in total. I can’t blame myself. I did everything I could and I end up second with an 0.08 margin. It’s tough luck, but that’s sports. I have to congratulate Carlijn, she’s the deserved winner.”
Wüst was already looking forward to Monday, when she will have another shot at gold in the ladies’ 1500m. “This race gives me a lot of confidence”, she said.
Antoinette de Jong (NED) ©Getty Images
After Wüst seven-time Olympian Claudia PECHSTEIN (GER) was aiming to become only the second athlete to win a medal at six different Olympic Winter Games. She had to bow her head for pair-mate Ivanie Blondin (CAN), who came sixth in 4:04.14. Pechstein herself had to settle for ninth place in 4:04.49.
Antoinette de Jong (NED) faced Miho Takagi in the penultimate pair. She took the lead at the 600m split but she couldn’t match Achtereekte’s split times. De Jong tried to accelerate in the final lap, but she came 0.81 seconds short for gold. Takagi eventually came sixth in 4:01.35. De Jong was left with mixed feelings: “I wanted to skate the race of my life here, and it was just a little off.”
De Jong was a little unlucky with the draw, she explained: “I used to be able to skate my own races, but this time I had a fast opponent, who was able to skate a flat race. I wanted to stay with her. That’s different from starting a little bit slower to keep something in the tank for the final laps.”
In the final pair Martina Sáblíková (CZE) was struggling to keep up with De Jong’s pace in an effort to reach the podium. She eventually finished fourth in 4:00.54. Her pair-mate Natalia Voronina (OAR) came tenth in 4:05.85.