Vancouver / Canada

22-year-old Martina Sáblíková (CZE) won the 5000m for ladies today at the Richmond Olympic Oval. It was her third 2010 Olympic medal after gold in 3000 and bronze in 1500m. Stephanie Beckert (GER) (21) won the silver and 37-year-old Clara Hughes (CAN) won bronze.

The fastest skater in the first four pairs was Jileanne Rookard (USA), who finished in 7:07.48.

In the first pair of the four after the ice resurfacing break, Clara Hughes, Olympic champion on this distance in 2006, skated a strong race, very focused and with lap times going up very gradually, she finished in a new track record of 6:55.73. The sound of the audience cheered her on. In her shadow, Masako Hozumi (JPN) also skated a good race and finished in 7:04.97. In the next pair Norwegian Maren Haugli, whose brother got an Olympic diploma a day earlier, posted 7:02.19, good for fifth place in the end.

The silver medalist of the 3000m Stephanie Beckert (GER) raced in the pre-last pair. She is usually a slow-starter but was pretty fast off the line this time. From 1800m, she was gaining on the time of Hughes. Her trade mark is a sprint finish and with a 32.3 last lap she skated a personal best time and new track record of 6:51.39. Her pairmate Kristina Groves finished in 7:04.57 which was 6th place.

In the final pair 3000m champion Martina Sáblíková raced with Daniela Anschütz-Thoms (GER). Both skaters started fast and Sáblíková immediately took the lead in the first lap. Her outer turns she skates with 20 steps, more than others, which is where she gains her speed. She had 1.69 on Beckert after a few laps, but it didn’t grow much from there. She kept leading with around 1.5 second, and finished with a 33.1 last lap and a new track record of 6:50.91. Anschütz skated strongly as well, but missed the podium just like in the 3000m, finishing close to her personal best time in 6:58.64.

Hughes, at 37 years and 150 days, is only 34 days younger than the oldest lady who ever won a medal in speed skating (Eevi Huttunen in 3000m 1960): “It was the last five laps that I let the crowd give me wings. It fed me. It was pure sugar out there and it sustained me.” “On my hand I wrote ‘Open heart, open mind and war’, because this is a battle.” and: “I’m now officially retired.”

Stephanie Beckert: “I am extremely happy to have two medals from my first Olympic Games. I tried to reach 6:53, to skate a personal best. The atmosphere was fantastic, skating with Groves. Lap after lap I had a better feeling.”

Martina Sáblíková: “In the past three days, I caught a cold, so I felt exhausted after the race. My legs were extremely sore. If Stephanie Beckert had been in the race after me, I think she might have won. Of course, I didn’t expect to win three medals. I’m on the verge of tears.”