BEIJING (Reuters) – Martina Sablikova became the most decorated Czech Olympian on Thursday at the Beijing Games when she won the seventh speed skating medal of her career – an achievement she hadn’t even expected herself.
Competing at her fifth Olympics, the 34-year-old skated the 5,000 metres with a steady lap time of about 32 seconds to clinch the bronze medal in six minutes and 50.09 seconds.
“I’m so happy because I didn’t think today I will have a medal. (But now) I have bronze. I don’t have words. One month (ago) I didn’t know I will compete here… It was hard to prepare for the Olympics,” Sablikova said after her race.
She has a string of medals to her name already, including golds in the 5,000 metres at the Vancouver and Sochi Olympics, and a gold in the 3,000 metres at Vancouver.
Despite her wealth of experience, she said the nerves got to her as she felt the weight of her country’s expectations on her shoulders during the race.
“I was so nervous. I said ‘Oh my God, I will have fourth place again’,” she recalled thinking as she watched the other pairs racing against the clock for a spot on the podium. Sablikova had finished fourth in the women’s 3,000 metres on Saturday.
Relief set in as she saw the other skaters couldn’t match her time and she knew she had won the bronze medal.
“I’m very proud but I can’t believe it,” she said.
Sablikova had spoken of retiring after the Winter Games, but she was not so sure about that after her bronze medal.
“I have the medal, so we will see. I have to wait for the end of the season, then I will have time to think about what I will do next year.”
(Reporting by Sakura Murakami; Editing by Hugh Lawson)