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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Winter Olympics spoiler alert: Women's 5,000 speedskating

AP Sports Writer

Results of Women's 5,000 speedskating final

RICHMOND, British Columbia — Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic captured her second speedskating gold medal of the Vancouver Olympics on Wednesday, crumpling to the ice in exhaustion after winning the women’s 5,000 meters.
Sablikova, the world-record holder, added to her 3,000 victory by finishing in 6 minutes, 50.91 seconds. She beat silver medalist Stephanie Beckert of Germany by 0.48 in a race that turned out much tighter than expected at the Olympic Oval.
Defending Olympic champion Clara Hughes of Canada turned back the clock at age 37 and took the bronze in her final race.
IOC president Jacques Rogge called Sablikova “definitely the queen of skating. Whether she will the queen of the games, remains to be seen.”
Sablikova was so spent at the finish, she dropped to the ice after slowly gliding to a standstill. Coach Petr Novak had to take off her skates. She started her victory lap in her socks with a hesitant, weary tread.
“My legs is kaput,” Sablikova said.
“I was extremely exhausted, and I was in a lot of pain,” Sablikova said through a translator. “If there was another 100 meters I would not have made it.”
With her victory, she became the most successful female skater at these games with two golds and a bronze in the 1,500. She cannot add to that in the team pursuit since the Czech Republic does not have enough top skaters to compete.
“I have two golds. This is the first time for the Czech Republic in the Winter Games,” she said. “The Olympic Games was ’Wunderbar’,” she said.
Already smiling before she started racing, Sablikova happily greeted the crowds, showing none of the nervousness and insecurity of the preceding training days.
Immediately, she settled her 119-pound frame into that light floating style that no one has been able to match over the long distance. Veering wide on the corner and using every bit of ice at her disposal, she wavered somewhat at the halfway point but was able to hold on.
She did just enough on her last lap to hold off Beckert, who had skated in the next-to-last pair before Sablikova.
Gasping and flailing arms widely over the last lap, Beckert pushed for the line with power and crossed in 6:51.39. She immediately raised her arms in triumph realizing she had at least a bronze to add to her silver of the 3,000. In the end it made for an identical 1-2 finish over both long distances.
It was another disappointing day for Canada on the ice, with only a bronze to show for it. For Hughes though it meant the world.
With bold, powerful strokes, she set the early pace for all the favorites to shoot at. With an increasingly raucous crowd behind her, she wavered little over the final laps and pumped her fists once over the line.
“This crowd gave me wings,” she said. “It was one of the best races of my life. Now, I am officially retired.”
With a broad smile showing, Hughes realized she would be known for more this year than carrying the Canadian flag at the opening ceremony.
“It was a fantastic way to end her career,” Rogge said. “Hollywood would not have scripted it better.”
Cindy Klassen had been Canada’s top skater with five medals in Turin, but was only a shadow of herself in fading to 12th place.
Rogge had called Klassen the outstanding athlete of Turin four years ago when Canada won eight medals on the oval. Now, with only two pursuit titles to go, they are stuck with only four medals overall and a lone gold.
Sablikova, with three, was almost as successful all on her own.