Vancouver / Canada

Ireen Wüst from the Netherlands won the 1500m ladies, with 1:56.89 ahead of home favourite (and bronze medalist in the 3000m) Kristina Groves. 3000m champion Martina Sáblíková (CZE), over a second slower than Wüst was good for bronze. The Netherlands now joined Norway as leading nation in Olympic speed skating history; both have 80 medals; the Netherlands has one more gold.

18 pairs competed. In the first half Annette Gerritsen (NED), silver medalist in the 1000m, managed a strong 32.7 last lap and finished in 1:58.46.

After the ice resurfacing break, Nao Kodaira from Japan was the first to go faster than Gerritsen. She set 1:58.20 and reached fifth place, like she did in the 1000m. Margot Boer (NED) then skated 1:58.10 and took over the lead. In pair 14, Ireen Wüst skated not impressively fast in the beginning, with 25.83, 29.1 and 30.3 but her final lap of 31.5 was outstanding. Her 1:56.89 equaled the track record that Christine Nesbitt had skated in October 2009. Her pairmate Daniela Anschütz-Thoms (GER), a strong skater in past years, could not perform as hoped. With two Dutch ladies in the lead, Martina Sáblíková skated in pair 16. Although a long distance specialist, Sáblíková can do a good 1500m on slower ice, and after a careful start with two final laps of 30.4 and 30.8 she did not quite reach the time of Wüst but her 1:57.96 brought her in front of Boer. Kristina Groves and Christine Nesbitt, both strong Canadians, still had to skate. Groves was fast at 1100m with 1:24.81, but her last lap was not enough for the win; 1:57.14 was the second fastest time. Christine Nesbitt finished with 1:58.33 in 6th place. Just like at the 500m, Margot Boer finished in fourth place.

Sáblíková: “It’s not my distance. I didn’t even watch the last pair as I didn’t think my time would be a medal. My plan was to stay behind and come forward in the last two laps because the ice as very hard.” Sáblíková is the second Czech athlete to have two medals in one Olympics after Katerina Neumanova (cross country), and she is also a favourite in the 5000m.

Groves already had a bronze in the 3000m and a fourth place in the 1000m: “The 3000 and 1500m are so different. In the 1500 I go as fast as I can from the gun and from then on you have to pace yourself. You have to do these runs so many times in the World Cup, you just learn how to race them. Today, this was probably the hardest race I’ve done so far.”

Wüst said “On the 3000 I felt good, and I skated well technically, because of which I started fast but I couldn’t keep it to the end. On the 1000m I could not make enough speed, but had the fastest last lap, so I had to do it today. Unbelievable.”

For Wüst it was the second Olympic gold medal, she won the 2006 3000m race “When I won the gold in Turin I was 19 years old, everything was amazing, I couldn’t lose. There were a few tough years in between and this is also a different distance. I like both gold medals, but this is something extra.”