Wust wins women's 1500m gold

Ireen Wust of the Netherlands made up for a disappointing start to her Olympics by claiming Vancouver speed skating gold in the women's 1500 metres at the Richmond Olympic Oval.

Eurosport

Wust upgraded her 2006 Turin bronze with a blistering time of one minute 56.89 seconds in the 15th of 18 pairings and then watched as the other contenders failed to beat the time.

Wust, who became the youngest Dutch gold medalist ever in the Winter Games when she won gold in the 3000m in Turin as a 19-year-old, finished seventh in last week's 3000 and eighth in the 1000m before she struck gold in the blue riband event.

Top-ranked Kristina Groves of Canada repeated as silver medalist by finishing second in 1:57.14, adding to the 3000m bronze she claimed last week.

The bronze medal went to Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic, gold medalist in the 3000m, in 1:57.96.

The Dutch all-rounder knew she had nailed her run, thrusting both arms in the air, pumping her fists in delight and pointing to the roaring orange-clad army packed into the oval after her finish.

Once second-ranked Canadian Christine Nesbitt failed to overtake her in the final pairing, the Dutch crowd erupted and Wust cried tears of joy.

On her victory lap, she paused to hug and kiss her girlfriend Sanne van Kerkhof, a member of the Dutch short track speed skating team.

"All the pieces came together today," Wuss said. "It's so unreal. I can't describe how happy I am."

Wust said her golden moment made up for the earlier Vancouver results.

"The 3-K was disappointing and the thousand was disappointing," she said. "But now I think I'm the happiest person on earth right now."

Her coach said getting back to the top can be difficult when one has struggled after a meteoric rise and added that, on top of pressure to do well, Wust became exhausted from participating in so many events.

"She had some problems to overcome, the feeling that she wanted to do everything and win everywhere at every distance," Geert Kuiper said. "Disappointment came that she couldn't win, and girls she beat easily before were better than her. It was tough to overcome that.

Wust said she got "goosebumps" from the unexpected victory on Saturday by 29-year-old team-mate Mark Tuitert in the men's 1500m and put together a perfect race plan the included a strong start and a technique that allowed her to have enough left in the tank for the final push.

Her triumph gave the Netherlands their 99th Olympic gold medal of all time, with Sven Kramer poised to hit the century mark for the Dutch as the hot favourite in the men's 10,000 metres on Tuesday.

Sablikova became only the second Czech athlete to win two medals at one Winter Games. The skinny glider can even surpass compatriot cross-country skier Katerina Neumannova, a household name back home, with a medal in the 5000m.

"Just to be named alongside Neumannova is such an honour. I am so happy to be compared to her," the soft-spoken Czech said.

Sablikova started her race slowly but managed to clock almost identical laps, both under 31 seconds, in both her final two over the gruelling distance.

"That was the strategy, to stay behind and then come forward towards the end," she said.

Sablikova was so certain a medal was not on the cards she did not even bother watching the last pairs.

"You see, this is not my strongest distance and there is a lot of competition with stronger girls. So I did not even watch the last pairs. I did not think I would win one (medal)."

On Wednesday though it will be a different story.

A world champion over the 5000m in the past two years and with a fourth place finish at the Turin 2006 Olympics, Sablikova is ready to trigger wild celebrations back home with yet another medal.

"I do not know what it will be like back home. We had never even won any medals in speedskating before so I have no idea," she said. "I will of course give it my best."

Factbox on Wust:

Age: 23

Place of birth: Goirle, Netherlands

Residence: Heerenveen, Netherlands

Previous major Olympic results:

Gold, 2006 Winter Olympics, 3000m

Bronze, 2006 Winter Olympics, 1500m

Career achievements:

Gold, 2008 World Championships, Team Pursuit

2x Gold, 2007 World Championships, 1000m & 1500m

2x Silver, 2009 World Championships, 1500m & Team Pursuit

Silver, 2007 World Championships, Team Pursuit

Gold, 2007 World Allround Championships, Small Combination

Silver, 2008 World Allround Championships, Small Combination

Bronze, 2009 World Allround Championships, Small Combination

Silver, 2007 World Sprint Championships, Sprint Combination

Champion, 2006/07 World Cup, 1500m

Runner-up, 2007/08 World Cup, 1000m

Background:

Wust began skating at age 11 and made her Netherlands debut in 2005. Aged 19, she became the youngest Dutch Olympic gold medallist after winning the 3000m at the 2006 Games in Turin.

The 2006 Dutch sportswoman of the year trains up to six hours a day in the summer and four hours per day in the winter.

Her role model is retired Dutch speedskater Rintje Ritsma.

She enjoys sailing, skiing, hockey and tennis.

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