BEIJING (Reuters) -Irene Schouten of the Netherlands scooped up her second Beijing Olympics gold medal when she won the women’s 5,000 metre speed skating event on Thursday, as the Dutch team continued to dominate on ice.
For the second time in the Winter Games, Schouten also broke an Olympic record that had stood untouched for 20 years since Salt Lake City as she whizzed around the oval in ever faster lap times and crossed the finish in six minutes and 43.51 seconds.
“Two races, two golds. I’m so happy. You cannot do better,” Schouten said after her race.
Silver medal winner Isabelle Wiedemann of Canada set the pace as the penultimate pairing, gradually turning up the speed as she swept around the National Speed Skating Oval. She skated close to but fell short of setting an Olympic record.
In the final pairing, Schouten maintained a steady pace ahead of the time set by Wiedemann, before racing ahead and crossing the finish line three seconds faster than the Olympic record.
“I knew that if you want to win you have to break the Olympic record, but I didn’t think I would get 43′,” Schouten said of her race.
Winning gold in the 3,000 metre race on Saturday had eased the weight of expectation on the Dutch team’s top skaters.
“On the 3k there was a lot of pressure, on the 5k I was more like – I have the Olympic gold, and now I can just skate fast… I have (my gold) already.”
Weidemann, who won bronze in the 3,000m race, finished in 6:48.18 for her second place.
She was full of praise for her rival.
“I mean Schouten is incredible. I wanted to cheer for her – that I couldn’t (do),” Weidemann said with a laugh.
“But just watching her skate, she takes the level up so much. I hope in the future that I can push her time and push the event even more. I think the faster more women can go the better… watching her skate has given me a fire for sure.”
Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic, who won gold in the women’s 5,000m in both Vancouver and Sochi, took bronze in 6:50.09.
Schouten adds her name to a list of skating greats, including German Claudia Pechstein, to win double gold in the 3,000m and 5,000m in the same year.
The Dutch team have already won half of the medals up for grabs in speed skating and appear on track to hit their target of 20 medals overall.
(Reporting by Sakura Murakami; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Andrew Cawthorne)