The women’s 3000m was the first speed skating event of the 2018 Winter Olympics. Traditionally, the Netherlands is very strong at this event, and today’s race was no exception.
Going into the final pair, Carlijn Achtereekte, Ireen Wuest and Antoinette de Jong were in position to sweep the event. However, they had to watch three-time Olympic Champion Martina Sablikova skate in the final heat. Sablikova challenged down the stretch, but fell short of breaking up the Dutch sweep with a time of 4:00.54, which was good for fourth place.
After the race the Dutch skaters were in different places. First time Olympic medalist Achtereekte was understandably ecstatic, while Olympic veteran, Wuest, was disapointed.
"I feel so good and I thought I have to skate the best race of my life and I did it and I won, that's incredible," said the gold medalist.
"I'm feeling OK, a little disappointed it was not good. I was on schedule for the gold but the last lap was too hard and I didn't make it," Wuest said.
Carlijn Achtereekte turned out a race of a lifetime. She was ranked 21st in the event after the World Cup and was making her Olympic debut in the event. She was not expected to medal however looked fast from the start of her race. Achtereekte finished with a time of 3:59.21 missing a track record by just .16 of a second. She beat three Olympic champions in the event (Wuest, Sablikova and Claudia Pechstein).
"I cannot believe it right now. It was so good a race. I skate so good. I was always skating 5k and I was getting better on the 3k but I qualified for this one," Achrereekte said after the race.
Two noteworthy milestones were reached in the event. Pechstein became the first woman to compete at seven Winter Olympics and Wuest won her ninth Olympic medal, tying Pechstein for the all-time record for career speed skating medals.
At 45-years old Pechstein has shown no signs of slowing down and is now focusing on her next race.
"I’m really happy, it was good training in a competition situation," Pechstein said. "I’m looking forward to a good 5k because I had good laps. It was still fast, and I had a good last lap. 5k is five laps longer and I’m in a good shape for this distance."
The sole American skater was Carlijn Schoutens. She grew up in the Netherlands but moved back to the United States in 2016 in hopes of qualifying for the Olympics as a member of Team USA and did so after winning the U.S. Olympic Trials. She faced off against Canadian Brianne Tutt in her heat. Schoutens was eight seconds off the pace halfway through her race, so she never really had a chance to medal.
"My goal was to have my best race of the season at a sea level track and I didn't, I fell a little short of that," Schoutens said to the media. "I'm still processing where exactly we have to look for an answer but for sure definitely a little disappointed."