Natalia Voronina (RUS) won the second World Cup gold medal of her career and broke her own national record in the Ladies 3000m at the Utah Olympic Oval in Salt Lake City on Sunday.
Voronina boldly took the lead against Sáblíková, but the experienced 30-year-old Czech pulled back with faster lap times in the second part of the race. At the 2600m mark Sáblíková even took the lead, but Voronina hit back with a 31.3-second final lap versus 31.6 for Sáblíková.
Voronina finished in a new Russian national record time of 3 minutes, 57.70 seconds, breaking her 2015 Calgary national best of 3:57.78.
Sáblíková finished in 3:57.84 and was happy to have secured Olympic qualification and even more happy to be able to rest after four stressful World Cup stages in which she has endured back problems.
“It’s getting better now,” she said. “But I have to do much work for my power, I still don’t have it at the moment.
“I still don’t really know the cause of my back problems, and I have to really take good care of it, but it’s getting better. I think in a week from now I’ll be back at a 100 per cent.
“I’ve been on the ice every day for the past two months, so it’s time to relax now. Not only physically, but also in my head. It’s really hard to deal with the stress only two months before the Olympics.”
Voronina takes over the 3000m/5000m World Cup lead from Antoinette de Jong (NED), who skipped the Salt Lake City World Cup to prepare for the Dutch Olympic trials in December.
Voronina collected 265 points in the first four races. Sáblíková comes second with 250 points and Pechstein is third with 245 points.