The Greatest Women's Long-Distance Skater
Claudia Pechstein's Olympic career spanned five Winter Games. She earned at least one medal every time, gaining a complete set of medals at 3,000m and a remarkable three gold medals and one bronze at 5,000m. Pechstein won her 5,000m bronze in 1992. At the 1994 Lillehammer Games, she added a bronze in the 3,000m and then bettered her personal record for 5,000m by an incredible 19.21 seconds to upset teammate Gunda Niemann by a half second. In 1998, at the Nagano Olympics, Pechstein moved up to second place in the 3,000m (behind Niemann) and then set a world record in the 5,000m to beat Niemann by a mere four hundredths of a second, the equivalent of half a metre. At the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, Pechstein completed her progression in the 3,000m by winning the gold medal. She also broke her own world record in the event by more than 1½ seconds. After finishing sixth in the 1,500m (she placed seventh in 1998), Pechstein entered the 5,000m as the two-time defending Olympic champion. This time she broke the world record by 5½ seconds and earned yet another gold medal. At 34, at the Turin Games in 2006, Claudia Pechstein completed her collection of Olympic honours by winning the gold medal in the team pursuit event and the silver in the 5000m event. This made a total of nine medals and five consecutive Olympic Winter Games.