The 1500m speed skating competition is a lung burner: three-and-three-quarter laps of full-throttle racing that leaves the body and mind in agony.
Into this theatre of pain at the St. Moritz Speed Skating Oval came Myrthe de Boer (NED) to win gold ahead of Takahashi Yuka (JPN) and Yang Binyu (CHN) with a time of two minutes, 10.44 seconds in the women’s competition.
De Boer’s performance was a marked improvement on her seventh-place finish in the women’s 500m event on Sunday at the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games.
“I just went from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs,” she said. “After yesterday’s result in the 500m I was really disappointed, but it proved to be a huge learning opportunity for me.
“During the final lap, my muscles were cramping a lot because of competing at a high altitude and the windy conditions. It felt like I was racing incredibly slow at some point, but having won gold I do not care about my time anymore.”
Such was the pain endured by some of the athletes in the high altitudes of St. Moritz that eighth-placed women’s 1500m racer, Fran Vanhoutte (BEL) vomited on to the ice afterwards.
“Today it was very, very windy,” said bronze medallist Yang of her 2:10.93 time. “It’s difficult to skate that way. I feel a little sick, it’s too hard.”
In the men’s 1500m event, Japan took their fourth speed skating medal and second gold as Arito Motonaga finished in first place with a time of 1:52.24.
“I was aiming for the gold medal today,” he said. “I’m really happy to have been able to achieve my goal. I feel proud about my race.”
Pavel Taran (RUS) finished in second place with a time of 1:53.74, while Jonathan Tobon (USA) grabbed bronze despite suffering from a brief outbreak of race day jitters.
“I felt very nervous this morning,” he said. “But I had a little bit of motivation in me to just send it. I’ve had the experience in the last year and a half of racing internationally, but this was by far the most nerve-wracking.
“It’s great to be able to say I’m a Youth Olympics medal winner. I’m glad to have had this opportunity to skate, let alone win a medal. It’s quite amazing.”