GANGNEUNG, South Korea (Reuters) - Dutch speed skater Ireen Wust secured her place in history by claiming a record 10th Olympic speed skating medal when she surged to gold in the women’s 1,500 metres at the Gangneung Oval on Monday.
Wust, who is the first Dutch athlete to win five Olympic gold medals and the most decorated Dutch Olympian with 10 medals in total, crossed the line in one minute 54.35 seconds, with Japan’s Miho Takagi taking the silver.
Wust’s compatriot Marrit Leenstra won bronze, to give the Netherlands its sixth medal in three speed skating events so far.
Wust’s second medal of the Games after her heartbreak in the 3,000m on Saturday, where she finished 0.08 seconds behind compatriot Carlijn Achtereekte, lifted her past Germany’s Claudia Pechstein to stand alone as the most successful speed skater in history.
“I’m feeling really happy and I still cannot believe it,” she told reporters. “For me it’s incredible.
“I realised two days ago when I was second in the 3,000m that the 1,500m will be on Feb. 12. Exactly 12 years ago that was the day that I won my first gold medal in Turin (at the Games in 2006).
“I had a dream to win four gold medals at each Olympics, so Torino, Vancouver, Sochi and Korea. Now I’ve achieved that dream and it’s an incredible feeling. The tension was really high.”
The 31-year-old Wust ran out of steam on the last lap of the 3,000m but made no mistake in the shorter distance, powering around the course to claim a second career 1,500m Olympic gold after her victory in Vancouver eight years ago.
“There was a lot of pressure on it, a pressure I put on myself,” she said. “After I came second in the 3,000m I really wanted to win this 1,500m... I put so much pressure, so when you make it the relief is bigger.”
After Wust’s failure to win the 3,000m, there were murmurs among the Dutch supporters that her shot at glory had slipped through her fingers forever, but the 31-year-old has a habit of performing at her best on the world’s biggest stage.
“I think the bigger the race, the more important, the more I can get something out of my body,” she said. “I’m more excited for big races. I like it more to skate when it’s really important. It’s not that I’m afraid for it, I just love it.”
Standing on the podium Wust, who will call time on her glittering career after the Olympics, raised her arms and jumped into the air in celebration, but the real party will have to wait until after the Games.
“I’m going to the Holland House and I want to see my family,” she said. “Then I’m going to sleep, get my medal tomorrow and race again on Wednesday. I’m going to celebrate after the Olympics.”
Editing by Ed Osmond