On the last 10 occasions it had been contested, Martina Sáblíková (CZE) won the Ladies’ 5000m title at the ISU World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships, so when she clocked a world record over the distance at the ISU World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships in Salt Lake City, it seemed only a miracle could keep her from claiming an 11th consecutive gold. That miracle went by the name of Natalya Voronina. After Sáblíková's 6:41.18, the 25-year-old Russian broke the 6:40 barrier with 6:39.02 to seize her first major international title.
Matina Sáblíková (CZE) and Natalya Voronina (RUS) at the ISU World Cup Speed Skating Final 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)
Voronina took on Marina Zueva of Belarus in the final pair. Despite having seen numerous skaters wearing themselves out too early in the endurance races over the first two days of the tournament, the Russian set out even faster than Sáblíková had done and maintained her incredible pace to take gold in a world-record time of 6:39.02.
"If you don’t take any risks, you'll never win," her proud coach Pawel Abratkiewicz (POL) said afterwards.
Voronina was confident she would not blow out before the end of the race, as so many had before her.
"When I saw 30.1 after my first full lap I knew that it was fast,” she said. “But the speed came easy so I thought I could keep it up."
Natalya Voronina (RUS) at the ISU World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)
Sáblíková was the first to congratulate Voronina after the race.
"This was an incredible competition. I was going to lose this title sooner or later and I'm very happy for her [Voronina],” the 32-year-old said.
"I told her that she's my hero. She skated under 6:40. I've tried to do that five times before and never managed."
Martina Sáblíková (CZE), Natalya Voronina (RUS) and Esmee Visser (NED) at the ISU World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)