5-star Dutch skater Wust shines

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SPEEDSKATER Ireen Wust surpassed legendary sprinter Fanny Blankers-Koen as she became the first Dutch athlete to win five Olympic gold medals yesterday.
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Ireen Wust of the Netherlands celebrates on the podium after winning the women’s 1,500-meter short track speedskating final in Gangneung, South Korea, last night.

SPEEDSKATER Ireen Wust surpassed legendary sprinter Fanny Blankers-Koen as she became the first Dutch athlete to win five Olympic gold medals yesterday.

Wust, 31, won the 1,500 meters at the Pyeongchang Winter Games in 1 minute, 54.35 seconds, defeating Japan’s Miho Takagi by 0.2 seconds with Dutch standout Marrit Leenstra third in 1:55.26.

On a day when strong winds caused a series of falls in the women’s slopestyle snowboarding final and forced the women’s giant slalom to be postponed, Wust also became the first speedskater in Olympic history to win 10 medals, eclipsing equestrian great Anky van Grunsven to become the most decorated Dutch Olympian.

“I feel really happy and I still cannot believe it,” Wust said. “For me it’s incredible. Now I have achieved the dream.”

Wust became the first Dutch Olympian to win five gold medals, breaking the career mark she had shared with 1948 four-time champion sprinter Blankers-Koen, swimmer Inge De Bruijn, cyclist Leontien van Moorsel and equestrian rider Charles Pahud de Mortanges.

“I don’t have any words for it, actually,” Wust said.

The achievement came 12 years to the day since Wust won her first Olympic gold in the 3,000 at Turin. She added 1,500 gold in 2010 at Vancouver and won the 3,000 and team pursuit in 2014 at Sochi.

“The bigger the race, the more important, the more I can get something out of my body,” Wust said. “I’m more excited for big races. It’s not that I’m afraid for it. I just love it.”

Wust moved one shy of 1960s Soviet Union skater Lidia Skoblikova’s all-time women’s speedskating record of six golds, just two days after fading on the last lap and settling for second in the 3,000.

After three events, the Dutch have six of nine medals.

Elsewhere on a busy day three, heavyweight Canada won its first gold of the Games in the team figure skating, while the Olympic Athletes from Russia took silver.

In Gangneung, the Canadian skaters entered the day with a big lead and never were threatened despite some outstanding individual performances by Mirai Nagasu, who became the first American woman and third overall to land a triple axel at the Olympics, and Russian Alina Zagitova, who soared to a first-place finish in the women’s free skate.

The top spot was clinched for Canada when Gabrielle Daleman finished third, giving her country 63 points to 58 for the Russians with only the ice dance remaining. The United States repeated its showing in the 2014 Sochi Games with a bronze medal.

“We have such an incredible, strong team,” Daleman said, “and I’m proud to say we’ve won and I’m prouder to have been part of it.”

Nagasu made some figure skating history, accomplishing her rare feat just 21 seconds into the women’s free skate. She was the first of the five women to skate and led her routine with the triple axel.

Germany’s Laura Dahlmeier won biathlon’s 10km pursuit for her second victory in Pyeongchang, before French army officer Martin Fourcade clinched the men’s 12.5km pursuit.

And Norway’s Maren Lundby won a dramatic women’s normal hill ski jump competition when she eclipsed German Katharina Althaus and Japan’s Sara Takanashi with the last jump of the night.

But angry snowboarders lashed out at organizers after the women’s slopestyle final was held in heavy gusts, causing nearly every competitor to take a tumble.

It came after the women’s giant slalom, featuring America’s Mikaela Shiffrin, was postponed until Thursday because of the wind — a day after the men’s downhill suffered the same fate.

While the skiing was postponed, the slopestyle went ahead with near-farcical results, as athlete after athlete hit the deck, including gold medal-winner Jamie Anderson.

“The weather was bad and too dangerous,” said bronze medalist Enni Rukajarvi, while Austria’s Anna Gasser added: “So many people got hurt because of the wind.”

The International Ski Federation, or FIS admitted that conditions were “challenging” but defended the decision to go ahead with the event.

“The nature of outdoor sports... requires adapting to the elements,” a statement said.

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