Speed skater Timmer stuns the world with double gold
Dutch speed skater Marianne Timmer arrived in Nagano with realistic hopes of a bronze medal in the women’s 1,500m, but no more. Germany's Gunda Niemann-Stirnemann looked to be a well-deserved favourite over the distance, while defending champion Emese Hunyady of Austria had returned determined to hold onto her crown. It was a strong field.
Timmer, meanwhile, hadn't finished on a single podium that season, and arrived at the Winter Games completely under the radar. However, it wasn’t long before she found herself at the centre of attention, setting off at an impressive pace and then somehow maintaining that speed right through to the end. She finished in 1 minute 57.58 seconds, a new world record and more than 2.6 seconds quicker than her own personal best. Staggered by her achievement, she struggled to take in just how fast she had gone, as she collapsed into her coach's arms.
None of the top skaters could get anywhere near to beating her time. Niemann-Stirnemann was the last to race, and finished more than a second slower. That was good enough for silver, but not good enough to deny Timmer a stunning triumph.Getty
Now brimming with confidence, Timmer approached the 1,000m with a new found focus and determination.
The benchmark time was initially set by Canada’s Catriona LeMay Doan, who went in the first pair and clocked 1 minute 17.37 seconds. Timmer was drawn to skate alongside Franziska Schenk, one of the early favourites, but Schenk's race came to an end early on when she fell. Unfazed, Timmer powered on and beat LeMay Doan's time by three-quarters of a second. It was never bettered, and the outsider had won her second gold medal of the Games.Getty
The Dutch skater had one more surprise left in her career. Eight years later, with most people considering her to be a spent force, she regained the 1,000m title at Turin 2006 at the age of 31.