Speed skating-Schouten wins gold with Olympic record in women's 3,000m

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BEIJING, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Dutch favourite Irene Schouten came from behind to win a dramatic final race against Francesca Lollobrigida and clinch her first Olympic gold medal in the 3,000 metres speed skating at the Beijing Winter Games on Saturday.

The 29-year-old was trailing her Italian opponent at the 1,400m mark but powered through in the second half of the race to triumph in an Olympic record time of three minutes 56.93 seconds.

"I had a lot of pressure from the Netherlands but also for myself. And then I made it, so I was really happy," Schouten said, looking visibly relieved.

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Lollobrigida won the silver in 3.58.06, while the bronze went to Canadian Isabelle Weidemann, who won the penultimate race in 3.58.64 to secure her place on the podium.

Schouten, who won a bronze medal in the mass start in Pyeongchang four years ago, has been unbeatable this season, sweeping the World Cup in long-distance speed skating so far.

"This morning I thought maybe it (was) better if I did not do that good this beginning of the season," she recalled.

"But if I do my best, I do my best -- that's the thing I did today."

Italian record holder Lollobrigida, a great-niece of 1950s film star Gina Lollobrigida, said she had hoped to put pressure on Schouten by getting off to a flying start and was pleased to have at least made a race of it.

"I wanted to be in front... to let her be a little bit nervous," she said.

"Okay, she got the gold, but (to make it) a little bit hard was much better, you know? I guess we supported each other during the race."

World record holder Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic was fourth, while 2018 gold-medal winner Carlijn Achtereekte of the Netherlands was seventh.

Schouten's time bettered the mark of 3.57.70 that Claudia Pechstein skated to win 3,000m gold at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City.

"When you say 20 years ago -- the record stands a really long time. I’m happy I have it now," Schouten said.

Germany's Pechstein, competing at a record-equalling eighth Winter Olympics at the age of 49, finished 20th and last.

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Reporting by Sakura Murakami; editing by Clare Fallon

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