What a race. The lightest skater in the competition is the fastest female over 5000m. After making her world cup debut earlier in the season, and surprising everyone at the Dutch olympic trials, 22-year-old Esmee Visser is Olympic champion in spectacular fashion. Starting her 5k a little slowly, she quickly settled into a disciplined pace of low 32-second laps which she kept up for almost the entire distance, only slowing slightly in the final lap. With a calmness, maturity and composure that belied her younger years and lack of experience at high level competition, her fairy tale ending is now complete. In the final pair, Martina Sablikova was simply not able to stay on her pace and finished just inside of 2 seconds behind the winning time, to take a silver medal in the even she had won in the previous two Olympic games. Annouk van der Weijden, after setting a very fast time in the first pair – a time which was not bettered until Esmee set the winning time – was just pipped by Russian skater Natalia Voronina by a mere 2 tenths of a second, much to the disappointment of Annouk. But all the credit goes to Visser who raced a personal best, and track record to cement her place in history, seemingly out of nowhere (I say ‘seemingly’, she has raced a total of one world cup and one European championship, both this season, she also raced in junior world championship in 2015 in Warsaw, although ironically enough not in the 5k but in the team pursuit)
Listen to the recording of my live audio commentary for the event. Look out for the ice resurfacing break where I nervously try to have a conversation with myself to kill some time.
Tomorrow is a rest day, but since they say “no rest of the wicked” I thought I’d continue to bring you interesting and unique content. At 8pm Korean time, 12 noon Berlin time, Yeowie radio will bring you an interview with coach Renee Hildebrand, one of the unsung heroes of the skating world. She has in the past been involved in coaching the US inline speed skating team, and also the Belgian team, but she is perhaps most famous for is being instrumental in the success of Joey Mantia, Brittany Bowe, and Erin Jackson in their early years an inliners. I will be talking about what it takes to make a world champion (many of the ingredients for ice skaters and inline skaters are the same) and also a bit about the development of the sport.
On Sunday we have the Men’s team pursuit quarterfinals and the ladies 500m final (all individual distance events for long track at the olympics is “the final”) The start lists for both of these events haven’t been published yet (these details are generally established at a so-called “drawing” meeting held the day before competition – nobody draws anymore, but this might be a leftover from a time when people were less literate). I will, nevertheless, make my predictions for the ladies 500m. It is difficult to go past Nao Kodaira – world record holder in the 1000m and undefeated in the 500m since sometime last season, obviously the favourite, but also the favourite for the 1000m and look how that turned out. Expect a strong challenge from defending Olympic champion, olympic record holder, and world record holder Lee Sang-Hwa of Korea – not as dominant as she used to be, but still very fast (and one of my favourite technical skaters), she will be skating in front of a home crowd who will be eager to cheer her on and help push her the one or two tenths of a second she will have to make up to beat Kodaira. In third, I would choose young Vanessa Herzog, a former inline skater and currently skating very well. Perhaps she will be inspired by Visser’s performance and decide that this is the opportune time for young upstarts to put their foot down on the world stage. Also look out for Karolina Erbanova from the Czech Republic, European champion in the sprint. Brittany Bowe and Heather Bergsma from the US may pose a threat to the medals if they are skating well, but recent form has suggested otherwise – still, Bowe was 5th in the 1500m, 4th in the 1000m… maybe it’s 3rd time lucky for a bronze?
Also look out for Erin Jackson from the USA, an inline skater, not a realistic medal chance, but a surprise qualifier for the games and one of the only (perhaps the only) skater to start at the Olympics without first skating at a world cup event (since world cups were introduced in the mid-80s).
As usual, I will be live broadcasting audio for anyone who cares to listen. I welcome anyone who wishes to call in for a chat during the ice resurfacing break, or if they also want to have a go at doing live commentary.