SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Short track specialist Jorien ter Mors was left in tears of joy after making a mockery of her lack of long track experience to win the Olympic women’s 1,500 meters speed skating title on Sunday, as the Dutch claimed another medal sweep.
A day after finishing fourth in the 1,500m short track final, Ter Mors, the first women to compete in both skating disciplines, clocked an Olympic record one minute, 53.51 seconds on the Adler Arena ice, a time which few of the pre-race favorites threatened.
Defending champion Ireen Wust was closest, 0.58 seconds back as added silver to her 3,000m gold, while Lotte Van Beek took bronze just ahead of another Dutch skater, Marrit Leenstra in fourth.
“I never imagined I would win a gold here on long track. It’s crazy,” Ter Mors told reporters.
“On Tuesday I did a training session here, I have only been here two times, most of my training is on short track.”
Ter Mors took up short track four years ago and tried the time trials of speed skating only in the last 18 months, saying she rarely trained on the big oval.
“My heart is really going out for short track,” said the Enschede-born skater.
“I have already worked four years very hard for the little track. That is why it is really close to me.”
The 24-year-old set her blistering time in the ninth heat of 18 and then had a long wait to see if it was enough.
Sporting an orange bobble hat, she took to her phone to try to kill the unfamiliar and nerve-racking waiting time.
“The text messages went to some friends and team mates in the stands,” she said.
“Normally when I go to the finish line I know if I have won or not, so it was a little bit different.”
One-by-one the challengers came up short. Wust, three-times Olympic champion, always looked the most likely but when she fell behind the split times of Ter Mors on the third lap, gold looked assured.
Still, Ter Mors sat with her head in her hands as Van Beek went in the final heat but she was always outside the required time and the tears flowed upon confirmation of the victory.
“The emotional part is it has been a really hard year for me with the death of my father in the summer, it’s been hard. So that is why I got emotional when winning this gold medal.”
The medal sweep moved the Dutch on to a record 16 speed skating medals for Sochi, surpassing the 13 won by East Germany at the 1988 Games.
It was also a third speed skating medal sweep in Sochi for the Dutch. The men completed the feat in the 500 and 5,000m but this was a first in the history of the Winter Olympics for the women.
“I can’t believe it,” Van Beek told reporters. “These are my first Olympic Games and not only do I medal but all the girls finished in first, second, third and fourth. That’s awesome.”
Russian Yuliya Skokova was best placed non-Dutch skater in fifth, almost three seconds back of the gold medal.
The Dutch have dominated the competition in Sochi, collecting 16 of the 24 speed skating medals so far, with four events left to be raced.
In contrast, the United States are still looking for their first speed skating medal after Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe finished in seventh and 14th in their old skinsuits after the team ditched their Olympic ‘Mach 39’ ones on Saturday.
Editing by Mitch Phillips