Sanneke De Neeling of the Netherlands and China’s Fan Yang both lit up Innsbruck’s speed skating oval today, as they claimed the women’s and men’s 3,000m titles with the winter sun shining down on the open-air venue.
De Neeling, who also won silver in the 1,500m, clinched gold in a time of 4:37.33, finishing 4.52s ahead of Japan’s Rio Harada in second place. Korea’s Su Ji Jang won bronze.
“This was my best race ever and I’m so happy,” said De Neeling afterwards. “It means a lot to me. Now I want to win gold at the Winter Games and I will do everything I can to achieve that.”
Yang had already claimed one Youth Olympic title after his victory in the 1,500m, and his sublime skating in the 3,000m saw him claim a second gold medal with a time of 4:03.22 – almost seven seconds clear of Japan’s Seitaro Ichinohe. “I’m very pleased, very excited and very happy,” said Yang after the race. “This is the best reward for all my hard training. I feel very excited because I have earned this honour for my country. I feel very proud of myself. Now I want to train very hard and compete in as many Olympic Games as possible.”
This is the first time that any Olympic speed skating events have been held outdoors since the Albertville Games in 1992 – before any of the young athletes competing in Innsbruck were even born – and many of them have had to adapt to the conditions.
“Indoors you don’t have to think about the wind or mist coming off the ice,” said Korea’s Mi Jang, who won gold in the women’s 500m and 1,500m. “It’s much easier to compete indoors than outside, but it was a very good experience.”