Dutch speed skater Ireen Wuest is doing her best to beat father time. At 35 years old, she is competing in her fifth Olympics and has already made history. She’s not just at the 2022 Winter Games to ride into the sunset.
Her first race at the 2022 Winter Games, the women’s 1500m, has been one of her stalwarts of her storied career. Wuest won the race, perhaps surprising to some, skating four pairs from the end, meaning she wasn’t favored to medal. But, no one should ever count out the racer who has 12 Olympic medals. Entering the Games, she was ranked seventh in the world at the distance this year, no longer the dominant skater she once was. However, when it comes to competing at the Olympics, something takes over the her.
“Just [to] see the rings, it’s something magical and you dream about it as a kid and then it’s a blessing to even compete at the Olympics,” Wuest said after her race, “and it’s something I want to show my really, really best. And I Really enjoyed it.”
Wuest did more than just win the race, she made history by doing so. She won the gold with an Olympic record time of 1:53.28. As mentioned, her 12th Olympic medal, tying her with Bjorn Daehlie as the third most decorated winter Olympian of all time. She could finish the Games, tied for second all-time.
It was her fifth straight medal in this event (and third gold), meaning she won a medal in the event at each of the five Olympics she competed in. It extended her lead as the most decorated speed skater in Olympic history. She also became the oldest woman to win a speed skating Olympic gold at 35 years, 312 days.
It doesn’t end there. She also became the first athlete to win at least one individual gold medal at five different winter Olympics. To put it in perspective, Michael Phelps, as the most decorated Olympian all-time, didn’t even do that.
The Dutch skater burst on to the scene almost 15 years ago ahead of the 2006 Torino Games. She was 19 and in her first race, the 3000m, she won gold skating a personal best of 4:02.43 introducing herself to the larger speed skating community. She became the youngest Dutch champion in the sport.
Her other gold medal wins include the 1500m in 2010, the 3000m again in 2014 and the 1500m in 2018. She left the PyeongChang Games as the most decorated speed skater ever. Her win at these Games, also tied her for most Olympic speed skating titles, six, with Lidiya Skoblikov, who represented the Soviet Union from 1960 until 1968.
Her success isn’t just limited to the Olympics. She has earned 111 World Cup medals in her career. She has also won seven world allround titles and 15 world distance championships gold medals, in addition to 15 silvers and one bronze. There’s no question she’s respected by her peers.
“Words can’t describe her class,” American Brittany Bowe declared after the 1500m race. “She is the greatest of all-time, as her performance shows. Another Olympic gold medal in Olympic record fashion. I’m honored to have competed against her for so many years and even more so to call her a friend.”
While some argue, Wuest could still compete competitively for years to come, the speed skater has said it’s time. She announced her last race would be March 12 at the World Cup Final. Wuest doesn’t want to be someone who holds on too long.
“I will leave on top,” Wuest said after her gold medal win, “This is on top, isn’t it?”
She has one last race, the women’s team pursuit. The Netherlands are competing in the semifinals at 1:20am ET Tuesday. If all goes to plan, she’ll be leaving the Games with two gold medals, 13 career medals, doing much more than quietly riding off into the sunset.
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