Wust gives Dutch second straight speedskating gold, wins 3,000 meters
FEB 09, 2014 8:28a ET
SOCHI, Russia -- Ireen Wust made the Netherlands 2-for-2 at the Olympic speedskating oval.
Wust won the women's 3,000 meters Sunday, knocking off defending Olympic champion Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic. Skating in the next-to-last pairing, Wust won with a time of 4 minutes, 0.34 seconds.
"I felt great all season, and I knew this was my moment to shine," Wust said.
Sablikova settled for the silver in 4:01.95, clapping for her rival after Wust crossed the line.
The bronze went to Olga Graf, who gave Russia its first medal of the Winter Games in 4:03.47 and sent the crowd at Adler Arena into a frenzy.
Russian President Vladimir Putin even offered his congratulations.
"You brought an unforgettable moment of triumph and utter joy to millions of fans by taking the first medal for our team," Putin said in a statement.
Six-time Olympian Claudia Pechstein was looking to win her 10th Olympic medal, but the 41-year-old German faded badly over the final laps and missed the podium. She was fourth in 4:05.26.
Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima were again in the crowd, just as they were the day before when Sven Kramer took gold in the men's 5,000. The royal couple saw another winning performance by their speedskating-mad nation.
The Dutch have now captured 29 Olympic golds, pulling even with the United States for the most victories in the sport.
Wust kept holding up three fingers -- the nails painted red, white and blue to symbolize the Dutch flag -- after taking the third gold medal of her Olympic career. She even went sliding on her rear to celebrate, the only time she stumbled all day.
"The tension was enormous and immense," she told NOS, the Dutch national broadcaster. "Ahh, this is insane!"
The 27-year-old Wust has been on top at three straight Olympics, claiming the 3,000 at the 2006 Turin Games and the 1,500 at Vancouver in 2010.
She came into Sochi as the skater to beat after winning the European allround title last month. Wust lived up to the billing, becoming the most decorated Dutch female Winter Olympian with three golds and a silver.
"At the Turin Olympics, I was young. I still had acne on my face," she said. "Here, I went into the race as the favorite. That was a heavy load.""
The other two medalists also celebrated wildly. Sablikova, who won gold in both the 3,000 and 5,000 at the Vancouver Games, didn't seem to mind giving back one of her titles to Wust.
"Wust was simply very fast today and nobody could fight her," Sablikova said.
No one was more thrilled than Graf, who glided around the rink on one skate like she was flying and nearly had an embarrassing moment when she unzipped her skin-tight suit in the ecstasy of the moment -- then zipped it back up quickly when she realized there was nothing on underneath.
"I totally forgot," she said sheepishly through a translator. "We have very good suits and they are very tight and I just did not know what to (do). You just want to breathe and you want to take off your suit and only afterward did I realize that maybe this video will appear on YouTube. But I don't think it will be so bad."
Pechstein looked like a skater approaching her 42nd birthday, unable to channel her anger over missing the Vancouver Games into a medal-winning performance. She was suspended over abnormal blood levels, even though she had never failed a doping test and steadfastly denied any wrongdoing.
She'll have another chance for that 10th medal in the 5,000.
"Finishing fourth at 41, that isn't that bad," Pechstein said. "The ice quality was tough but it was the same for everyone. I didn't feel as old as I am. I'm feeling good about the 5k. I can still get my medal there."
Jilleanne Rookard of Woodhaven, Mich., who skated in the pairing with Graf, was the highest-finishing American. She took 10th out of 28 skaters in 4:10.02. Anna Ringsred of Duluth, Minn., was 27th.