Ladies 1000m Podium ©Getty Images
Jorien ter Mors (NED) maintained her perfect Olympic Speed Skating record, seizing gold in the ladies’ 1000m on Wednesday. Favorite Nao Kodaira (JPN), who won three World Cup 1000m races this season, had to settle for silver and her compatriot Miho Takagi added a bronze to Monday’s 1500m silver.
Ter Mors, the 2014 Olympic 1500m and Team Pursuit champion, won all Speed Skating events in which she participated. The only speed skater who won Olympic gold in each of his or her first three appearances in an event, was Yevgeny Grishin (URS) who won his first four in 1956 and 1960.
Appearing serene in the hectic Olympic environment Ter Mors said: "Inside I’m really happy with the gold medal. For now, everybody wants something so I sort of got to live this day. After that, I hope to celebrate a little tomorrow with my boyfriend, sister and my mom.”
After her Speed Skating gold, Ter Mors returns to the Gangneung Ice Arena for some more Shor Ttrack after a disappointing elimination in the semi-finals of last Saturday’s 3000m relay.
"It’s not over. I hope to do really well in the (individual) 1500m in Short Track. Maybe I can do something special there, too. The 500m is a little less important. It’s not really my distance, but it’s nice to also skate the 500m."
Unmatched final lap
In the 1000m at the Gangneung Oval, the eventual champion skated in the twelfth pair versus Brittany Bowe (USA). The American skater opened faster (17.79 versus 18.07). At the 600m split Ter Mors was still 0.18 seconds behind, but she skated an unmatched 28.50 final lap to set e new Olympic record. With 1:13.56 she was 0.27 seconds faster than Chris Witty at Salt Lake City 2002.
“I did not have a race plan”, said Ter Mors. “The only plan was to skate well technically and I managed. If I do that, I can keep my pace the best. Before the race I did not really know what I would be able to do. I was in good shape already for a week-and-a-half. I almost feared that it would take too long for my form before I had to skate.”
Ter Mors was far from sure that she had won when she crossed the line. Miho Takagi (JPN) and Nao Kodaria (JPN) started in pair 14 and 15. “Takagi started so fast, I thought: oops! She can also skate a very good final lap,” said Ter Mors. “And with Kodaira you never know, she always skates fast as lighting.”
Nao Kodaria (JPN) ©Getty Images
Japan challenges ‘the Dutch’
Takagi indeed started faster than both Bowe and Ter Mors, but the 23-year-old Japanese was not able to keep up that speed and she was behind Ter Mors at the 600m split already, to finish in 1:13.98.
"In the 1500m I was at full energy,” Takagi said. “But the energy is gone now. I recognize there were two better skaters there today."
One of these better skaters was Kodaira. The Japanese 500m bullet also attacked Ter Mors ferociously. With one lap to go she was still half a second ahead of the Dutchwoman, but Kodaira too capitulated in the final lap (29.27) to clock 1:13.82.
Kodaira felt that she had done what she could: "It wasn’t a bad time. The Dutch skater was just so great. At the Olympics, always it’s the stronger athlete that wins. The Dutch skaters are still better and stronger than us, but we are coming and we have room to improve and we can challenge them. I am very pleased with this medal."
Miho Takagi (JPN) ©Getty Images
Wüst did not have the energy
Michelle Uhrig (GER) drew the first solo skate in the uneven field of competitors. The 22-year old German opened the ball in 1:20.81. Her time goes down in the archives as 31st and last, but she had been fortunate to be able to start in the first place: "I am happy with the performance because I have spent three days in bed,” Uhrig explained.
Ireen Wüst (NED) started in the fourth pair and she was leading the field at the ice halfway through the competition. After a false start from pair mate Yvonne Daldossi (ITA) the fresh Olympic 1500m champion started with a 18.31 second 200m split and a first full lap in 27.88 and skating a 29.13 final lap for a total time of 1:15.32.
"I tried everything. It was OK until about 600m, but I lost a bit of energy in my last lap. I had hoped for a better last lap, like in the 1500m, but my legs were a little tired. I’m a little bit disappointed with my race," she said. Wüst eventually ended up in ninth place.
A loud cheer went through the Gangneung Oval when Hyun-Yung Kim (KOR) took the ice in the seventh pair versus Ida Njåtun (NOR). Encouraged by the home crowd Kim fired from the starting line like a rocket. A first false start did not prevent her from opening in 18.06. Njåtun stayed far behind with 18.79, but the Norwegian slowly but decisively reeled the exhausted Kim in. With 28.98 versus Kim’s 30.52 in the final lap, Njåtun finished 0.11 seconds behind Wüst.
In the first pair after the break Seung-Hi Park generated another wave of enthusiasm in the stadium. The 26-year-old Korean was 0.38 seconds faster than Wüst at the 600m split, but she had to bow her head with a 30.30 final lap to finish in 1:16.11 for rank 16.
Sochi 2014 Olympic Champion Hong Zhang was hampered by injuries in the past two years. With 1:15.67 in the eleventh pair, she ended up in eleventh place. She had little a misstep and almost crashed: "Although I'm not able to defend my title, I think I've still won by being here. I've defeated the injuries and all that I've been through in the past four years,” she said. "If I didn't have that blunder, I'd probably be faster by maybe 0.3 or 0.4 seconds, which would still be some distance behind the top three skaters.”
Yu Ting Haung (TPE) ©Getty Images
Yu Ting Haung (TPE) started in the thirteenth pair versus Hege Bøkko (NOR). The 29-year-old skater from Chinese Taipei switched from inline skating to the ice as part of the ISU transition program. With 1:16.44 and 20th place she made up for Monday’s crash in the 1500m. "I was actually unusually calm before the race”, she said. “I was really nervous before the 1500m, I think that's why I went ahead way too fast and then lost energy and couldn't hold the race towards the end. If I were to be able to take part in another Olympics, I'll be more experienced in terms of adjusting. I don't think I did such a good job with that this time."