Russian Graf ready for exposure after bronze

SOCHI, Russia Sun Feb 9, 2014 4:59pm GMT

Olga Graf of Russia waves after her women's 3000 meters speed skating race during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 9, 2014. REUTERS/Phil Noble

Olga Graf of Russia waves after her women's 3000 meters speed skating race during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 9, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Phil Noble

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Winning the bronze medal in the women's 3,000 meters speed skating will grant Olga Graf national exposure as Russia's first medalist at their Sochi Games, but her wardrobe malfunction is likely to garner global fame.

The 30-year-old chess-playing skater had the noisy crowd at the Adler Arena on their feet as she delivered a personal best in the race on Sunday.

Roared across the finish line, she punched the air with delight after clocking her time on the giant scoreboard which briefly put her in gold medal position.

As she slowed down the back straight to savor her skate, Graf unzipped her skin-tight suit to the waist and waving to the fans, before suddenly realizing she had no shirt underneath.

Her eyes widening in embarrassment, Graf pulled the suit together to protect her modesty.

"I totally forgot that I had nothing under my suit," the German speaking Russian told reporters, her deadpan expression melting into an embarrassed smile.

"We have very, very tight suits and I just wanted to be able to breathe and take it off. I realized it after that. Maybe this video will appear on YouTube, but that's not so bad."

Graf's mark was surpassed by defending champion Martina Sablikova two heats later before Dutchwoman Irene Wust recorded the winning time in the penultimate 13th pairing.

German great Claudia Pechstein could not better Graf, though, and her fourth place finish left the 41-year-old just shy of adding to her Olympic speed skating record medal haul of nine.

"Pechstein is my idol because she keeps fighting and she keeps winning," Graf said of the five-times Olympic champion, who won her first medal, a bronze, 22 years ago at the Albertville Games. "And I beat her. Yes."

Graf, born in Omsk but now a resident of Kolomna, south of Moscow, took up the sport in 1995 when a coach said she should ditch wushu and other martial arts.

Success was a long time coming, though.

Sunday's podium was the first in her career at a major race and the achievement of doing so on the grandest stage at her home Olympics was yet to sink in.

"You know I wouldn't say that I feel a lot of emotions right now. The only feeling I have right now is that I am tired," she said with a steely stare.

"I've got 10 days and I hope that this medal motivates us for the team pursuit."

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)