Glory for Schut in 3,000m speed skating
The women’s 3000m speed skating at Grenoble was a fast, spectacular and unpredictable event, in which the top ten competitors all broke the Olympic record in a remarkable display of how the sport had developed.
The unpredictability came from two angles – the winner and the weather. Indeed, the two were probably related, with one of the favourites being affected by rain while the winner competed under clear skies in perfect conditions.
Johanna “Ans” Schut had won the 3,000m at the world championships earlier in 1968, but most observers thought victory may go to her Dutch team-mate, Stien Kaiser. She had been world champion the previous year and had also set the last three world records – the most recent of them just a few days before the Olympic Winter Games began.
The early pace was set by another Dutch competitor, Wil Burgmeijer, who was in the first pair to skate and broke the Olympic record by more than nine seconds.
Schut was in the fifth pair and threw everything at it to finish in under five minutes – although her time was still slower than Kaiser’s world record.
The stage was set for Kaiser to produce something special, but, by the time she went in the 12th pair, the conditions had changed, and turned against her. Rain had begun to fall and Kaiser was never on the pace. She trailed by four seconds after 1000m and was never able to close the gap. Indeed, she actually finished third, with Finland’s Kaija Mustonen taking the silver medal.