Triple Dutch: Ter Mors leads medal sweep in 1,500Netherlands now has won 16 of 24 medals given out in speed skating
After the male speed skaters raced their 1,500 meters Saturday, the ladies took their turn Sunday, and for the first time in history, there was a sweep for the Dutch.
Jorien ter Mors won gold in an Olympic-record time of 1:53.51. There was a silver medal for defending champion Ireen Wüst, who skated 1:54.09, and Lotte van Beek took the bronze with 1:54.54. The fourth-ranked skater, Marrit Leenstra, was two seconds behind, in 1:56.40.
Ter Mors is the first female short track skater to compete in both long track and short track at the Olympics, and after finishing sixth and fourth so far in her two short track races, she takes the gold in the sport she loves least. The Dutch have now taken 16 medals of the 24 medals handed out in speed skating.
Ter Mors, skating in the ninth pair, opened in 25.67 and followed with a 28.0 lap. The next lap went in 29.2, and she finished with a 30.5. It all added up to a new Olympic standard.
Superlatives abounded afterward.
Kali Christ of Canada said, "It was working ice, but when I saw Jorien's race, saw on the scoreboard that she was gaining and gaining, my jaw dropped."
"It's awesome for the sport and great for women," American Brittany Bowe said. "That time was pretty incredible, and I think it's so really cool to see a female go that fast at sea level. Hats off to her for sure."
Ter Mors was more subdued in her reaction to her gold-medal-winning performance.
"It is not incredible that a short track skater wins -- I put in hours of hard work, have powerful legs, and I easily adjust to the klapskate," ter Mors said.
Ter Mors did later admit that, at her core, she is still a short-tracker.
She said, "I would readily exchange this medal for a short track medal. That is where my heart is."
The next of the Dutch to skate was Leenstra, who opened in 25.41, then produced a 28.3 lap. With a 29.8 and then a slower 32.8, she moved into second.
Heather Richardson of the United States opened in 25.28 but did not glide on through the laps, the last of which looked like a struggle. Her times of 28.8, 30.8 and 32.6 brought her temporarily into third.
"That was the best sea-level result for the 1,500 meters I have ever had," she said. "I felt more relaxed going into that race. After the 1,000, I went home and cried a million times, but eventually you have to let it go and concentrate on the other races."
In the next pair, Wüst was given a hard assignment. Going into the competition as the great favorite, after winning the 3,000 and taking silver in the 1,000, the tension had grown after the race of ter Mors, when initially a mid-1:54 race was expected by most as enough to win. Wüst started a few hundredths faster than ter Mors but lost two-tenths in the first lap and one-tenth in the next. A 30.5 final lap was also not possible; she did well, with a 30.8, and finished in 1:54.09.
Wüst now has a total of six Olympic medals, tying her with Rintje Ritsma for the most all-time by a Dutch woman.
"It feels like losing gold, but I have lost to someone truly better than me," Wüst said. "I have a lot of respect for Jorien. She skated the race of her life. It feels sour, but I think I can still enjoy it."
With the Dutch now being 1-2-3, Bowe raced her race, finishing in 1:58.31.
"Obviously, there are a lot of things that are being said, but in general I think we've done a good job of sticking to our race plan," Bowe said. "It was a little tough for me to get my speed going. I wasn't skating the lap times I wanted to."
In the final pair, Claudia Pechstein of Germany and the Netherlands' van Beek skated. Van Beek opened in 25.49, Pechstein 27.03. Van Beek continued with a 28.3 lap, while for Pechstein the lap times seemed more in line with her training for the 5,000. Van Beek managed to go on strong, with final laps of 29.7 and 30.8, finishing in 1:54.54, two seconds faster than her training partner, Leenstra.
"I knew that I had to skate for bronze, but it is sad that it was at the cost of my training partner," van Beek said. "There are only three medals. I had not expected my time to get that good. It's a double feeling that we can't be all four on the podium, but I am really happy with my bronze medal."
American Jilleanne Rookard skated a 1:59.15, putting her in 18th place. She had a lot to say about the controversy surrounding the Under Armour skin suits some believe are slowing down the U.S. skaters.
"If it is not the suits, it's something else. We never really race in perfect situations," Rookard said. "I was very frustrated with everything going on with the suits and the team, but then I had a talk with my physiotherapist, and she told me to focus on things I can control. The thing with me is, I don't keep my happiness in the federation's hands. You can be part of the team and choose to follow what they say or be part of the team and do your own thing."