The predictability of yesterday’s result was balanced out by today. Ireen Wüst wins the ladies 1500m – the event in which she earned her first ever Olympic gold – back in Vancouver 2010, recapturing the title she lost to Jorien Ter Mors in Sochi. From the moment she finished skating she looked dissatisfied with her time, knowing that it was slower than her performance from Sochi where it was only good enough for the silver medal. As pair after pair skated their race, Wüst looked on, obviously nervous, even waving away a TV camera at one point. Marrit Leenstra came within a second of Wüst’s time after being slightly ahead for the first half of the race, and Lotte Van Beek came within a hundredth of Marrit’s time, but it came down to the final pair of world record holder Heather Bergsma and heavy favourite Miho Takagi. They both started very strong, and when they came around with a lap to go were right on Wüst’s pace. After the second-last corner Bergsma ran out of steam and fell back eventually finishing in 8th, while Takagi’s characteristically strong last lap was not quite strong enough, and she missed the mark by 0.2 of a second. And just as Jorien had to wait nervously for many pairs to skate after her before she could finally celebrate her gold medal, so it was with Wüst. A thrilling finish to the third day of speed skating in Pyeongchang.
To listen to my commentary of the event (which you will have to synchronise yourself with video gathered from elsewhere) click here.
The Men’s 1500m is often the most closely contested contest in the entire competition, which is all the more remarkable considering all the different ways that a skater can approach skating the distance. Indeed, in the Sochi the margin between first and second was 3 thousandths of a second. I even wrote a feature article about how the timing equipment can be relied upon to accurately measure such small margins, but for other reasons, such small margins should be considered equivalent results. The easy favourite to pick here is the Netherlands’ Koen Verweij, silver medalist in Sochi by 3 thousandths of a second, and second fiddle for most of this season to Denis Yuskov of Russia who broke Shani Davis’ 8-year-old world record in this event just last December, but who will not be competing at this games.
Also look out for Kjeld Nuis, also from the Netherlands, who won convincingly in this and the 1000m (where he broke a recently-broken track record). All four Norwegians are ranked very highly in this event – Håvard Bøkko, who has been world champion n this distance is the 4th-ranked Norwegian going in – Allan Dahl Johansson recently smashed the junior world record and Sverre Lunde Pedersen will be hungry after his bronze medal in the 5000m. Rounding things off are former world record holder Shani Davis who has struggled with form (and conflicts with US Speed skating administration) and Joey Mantia, a multiple world champion on inline skates who is now skating his second Olympic games.
Listen in to my live commentary for the event from 8pm local time (12 noon Berlin time).