Sanneke De Neeling (NED) was introduced to Speed Skating by her grandfather when she was just six years old. It was fitting then, that when she won the Gold medal in the Speed Skating Women's 3000m at the Innsbruck 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games, her 81-year-old grandfather was in the crowd to watch.
De Neling, who claimed the Silver medal in the 1500m on Monday, announced after that race she was aiming for Gold in the 3000m, and she hit her target in style. She secured her place at the top of the podium in a time of 4 minutes, 37.33 seconds, 4.52s faster than Silver medallist Rio Harada (JPN). Korea's Jang Su Ji claimed the Bronze medal in a time of 4:42.72.
The fact her grandfather was there to watch De Neeling's moment of glory at the Olympic Speed Skating Oval made it all the more special.
"My granddad is here,” she said. “I was six when he took me to the Speed Skating rink for the first time. I made my first run there and I liked it so much that I decided to go on."
De Neeling had painted her nails orange, the national colour of her homeland, for the race, and it brought her the luck she needed.
“It is so fine [that I won Gold]. I had the best race ever," she said. "I had imagined this performance, I had good legs this morning, I was feeling that everything was right.”
After hugging her brother following confirmation of her Gold medal, De Neeling called her best friend, Nina, back home. “She is at school so she could not follow the race," De Neeling said. "I said to her ‘I’ve Gold, I’ve Gold, I’ve Gold’.”
The Innsbruck 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games are not over for the Dutch yet. De Neeling will compete in the Mass Start event on Friday, but is also slightly nervous about skating in a pack.
“I don’t know, I hope I will still be alive at the finish line,” she joked. “I am a little afraid I could fall or get hurt.”
Bronze medallist Jang admitted she had expected to be taking home the Gold. “It’s a pity I did not arrive first," she said. "I expected to get the Gold actually, but I was feeling a lot of pressure and did not go fast enough. I just felt too tired, so I failed to do what I had planned. My personal best is 4:33, I was much slower today.”