Gold medal at 19 The Netherlands has long been the dominant force in international speed skating, a sport that has produced 35 of its 37 gold medals at the Olympic Winter Games (and 105 out of its total of 110 medals). In a country that has bred champions for decades, its latest star Ireen Wüst has propelled herself into a league of her own.
Wüst first made her mark on the Olympic stage at the Lingotto Oval in Turin in 2006, when at just 19 she became the Netherlands’ youngest ever champion at the Winter Games as she claimed gold in the women’s 3,000m, before going on to take bronze in the 1,500m. It was an achievement that saw he voted Dutch Sportswoman of the Year.
Second title in Vancouver She followed up her Olympic triumph by winning the world all-round speed skating title on home ice in Heerenveen (NED) in 2007, adding a silver in the same competition in Berlin (GER) the following year. She also took golds in the 1,000m and 1,500m at the 2007 World Single Distance Championships in Salt Lake City (USA), in the team pursuit at the 2008 Worlds in Nagano (JPN) and in the 2008 European All-Round Speed Skating Championships in Kolomna (RUS). Wüst maintained her dominance going into Vancouver 2010, where she beat home favourite Kristina Groves by 0.025 seconds in the 1,500m at the Richmond Oval to retain her Olympic title.
Raising the bar In the Olympic cycle leading up to Sochi 2014, Wüst continued to raise the bar with a raft of world titles. She regained the world all-round crown in 2011, and went on to defend it successfully the following two years running, while she also claimed the 1,500m and 3,000m titles in 2011 and then again, in Sochi’s Adler Arena, in 2013, where she was also a member of the Dutch trio that won the world team pursuit title.
Queen of SochiThe Dutch were utterly dominant at the Adler Arena, the stage for the speed skating events at Sochi 2014. In total they claimed 23 medals, including eight golds. Five of those medals went to Wüst, who started with a successful defence of her 3,000m title before adding three silvers in the 1,000m, 1,500m et 5,000m. She then teamed up with Marrit Leenstra and Jorien ter Mors to smash the Olympic record en route to gold in the team pursuit, thanks to a margin of more than seven seconds over fellow finalists Poland. Her five podiums in Sochi made Wüst the most successful female athlete at the 2014 Winter Games.
Next stop Pyeongchang?The odds are that the flying Dutchwoman will add to her impressive Olympic medal tally, as she is already eying a trip to the Winter Games in 2018, when she will still be just 31. “I would like to compete in PyeongChang,” confirms Wüst. “That’s my goal. I want to compete there and then retire, but you don’t know for sure. Hopefully I can stay healthy and not have any injuries. Then, we’ll see what happens.”