Christina Baas-Kaiser (NED) - Sapporo 1972
Christina Baas-Kaiser’s Olympic adventure was a classic tale of triumph over adversity. Not once but twice she had been rejected for the Dutch Olympic team. Back in 1963, she had been told that she was too old, despite being just 24 and having recorded the best times of the season. Her omission later earned her a formal apology from the Dutch national team.
She was selected for the 1968 Winter Games in Grenoble, where she won bronze medals in the 1,500m and 3,000m, and maintained her form into her 30s, finishing as a runner-up four times at the world championships between 1969 and 1972. So it was incredible when yet again she missed out on selection for the Olympic team for Sapporo. Again her age appeared to be the issue (she was going to be 33 by the time the Games started). However, this time the decision to omit her was to be reversed. When Trijnie Rep struggled to find her best form, Baas-Kaier received a late call-up to the team.
She responded with style and determination. First, she produced a brilliantly paced performance in the 1,500m to come from more than a second behind to take a silver medal, missing out on gold by just 0.2 seconds.
However it was in the 3,000m that she enjoyed her finest hour. The highly-rated Soviet skater Nina Statkevich set the early pace with a time of 5 minutes 1.79 seconds, but that was still about 15 seconds slower than Baas-Kaiser's world record. Holum then lowered that mark to 4 minutes 58.67 seconds, which remained the best time until Baas-Kaiser took to the ice for what was to be a glorious career finale.
She quite simply obliterated Holum's time and crossed the line in 4 minutes 52.14 seconds, winning gold by more than six seconds. It was the largest winning margin in history. Finally. Baas-Kaiser was an Olympic champion and was able to bow out on a high.