Dutch skater Suzanne Schulting sent the home crowd delirious with delight as she secured the overall title and led her team to relay glory on a high-octane final day of action at the ISU European Short Track Speed Skating Championships.
Suzanne Schulting celebrates winning the 3000m superfinal - and the overall title - at the ISU European Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Perhaps teammate Lara van Ruijven best summed up the achievements of the 21-year-old who defied crippling nerves and the heavy burden of home expectation to top the podium three times in Dordrecht, the Netherlands.
“She is like a superhero,” van Ruijven said. “To do it with all that pressure, she showed everyone that she is the true European champion. You could see in the superfinal how strong she is and she has so much confidence right now.”
Schulting is the picture of focus on her way to victory in the 3000m superfinal 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
In the end, Schulting needed all that confidence and more to secure the coveted title of Europe’s finest after suffering a serious setback in her favourite event, the 1000m. Not only is Schulting the reigning Olympic champion at this distance but she also came into the European Championships having won every 1000m World Cup gold medal contested this season.
But, after being penalised in her semifinal for changing lanes, the Dutch star was forced to watch from the sidelines as Russian rival Sofia Prosvirnova grabbed gold in the day’s opening event ahead of France’s Tifany Huot Marchand and a delighted Elise Christie (GBR).
Sofia Prosvirnova enjoys the moment after winning the 1000m final 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
It proved all the motivation Schulting needed to subsequently dominate the 3000m superfinal.
“I had to win the 3km to win the overall and I did it, that is an amazing feeling,” said Schulting, who went into the gruelling final individual event behind Prosvirnova on points in the overall standings. “I have been so nervous the whole week and now to have got it done, it feels so good. I am really happy it’s over.”
With the overall gold added to the 1500m crown she won on Saturday, the Ladies 3000m relay turned into a joyful procession for Schulting and the Dutch team who were cheered to the rafters throughout.
“That is what you want, to win with so much to spare and then to be able to celebrate like that with the crowd is fantastic,” Schulting said.
The Dutch team celebrate after cruising to victory in the Ladies Relay final 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
The home quartet finished half a lap clear of the Russians, who enjoyed a magnificent final day, particularly given that star skater Prosvirnova later revealed she had been suffering from back spasms in the lead-up to the championships.
“It’s really hard to believe,” said the 21-year-old who left Dordrecht as the 1000m champion and overall silver medal winner. “I have come second overall before (2015 and 2017) but this one is the most valuable for me because I got injured a few weeks ago and felt really weak. I didn’t expect to win any medals at all.
“I haven’t done any gym (work) for three weeks but I learned that no matter what happens you just have to try or you will regret it.”
Great Britain’s Christie was another to smash her own expectations in Dordrecht. The 28-year-old’s troubled 2018 was well documented and the three-time world champion confessed to being “4kg overweight” and “out of shape”. Despite this Christie returns home with a silver and two bronze medals.
“I have come into this competition before as fit as a fiddle and not had results like that, so to do that after everything – the crappest year – I feel so proud of me and my team,” said the skater who finished third in the 1000m and the 3000m superfinal on the final day to secure bronze overall, having taken silver in the 1500m on Saturday.
Elise Christie leads in the 1000m final, but Prosvirnova is ready to pounce 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
“We had a funding cut and we still managed to get on the podium,” Christie added. “I can’t wait for next year now, when I am actually fit. I have learned so much.”
The final word, however, must go to the darling of the Dutch crowd.
“I have been so focused,” Schulting said. “It’s been an amazing week and now I can go and enjoy it.”
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