Ireen Wuest of the Netherlands, the most decorated speed skater in the sport’s history, crossed the finish line at the Olympics for the final time on Thursday.
She closed the book on her ultimate Games having earned a gold medal in the 1500m, bronze in the women’s team pursuit and a sixth-place finish in the 1000m on Thursday.
“In general my performances have been great,” Wuest said after the 1000m. “Champion in the 1500m, and the team pursuit (bronze) I was happy with too. I hoped for a spectacular last race, but it wasn’t. But, overall I’m looking at a great Olympics.”
Speed skating was performed at the first Winter Olympics in 1924, yet no skater had reached double digit medals until Wuest in 2018. She now has 13 including six golds.
Norwegian cross country skier Marit Bjorgen is the only athlete who collected more career Winter Olympic medals with 15.
Wuest’s dominance began with her very first Olympic event. She won the women’s 3000m as a 19-year-old in 2006, which put her on a track to an unprecedented run.
The Dutch champion is the first athlete to capture gold medals at five separate Olympic Games. That includes summer.
Her most successful distance has been the 1500m, the discipline she has won three gold medals in. Wuest set the Olympic record to hold off any competition in her triumph at the 2022 Olympics.
“It’s one of the best 1500m races she ever skated, and again she does it when it really counts,” Netherlands coach Gerard van Velde said after the victory. “That’s a gift, and that’s why she’s the greatest Olympian in the Netherlands.”
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Wuest said her first gold medal was the easiest to win, since she was a wide-eyed teenager. She called her last one the most difficult.
“A lot of things happened to me during the last 16 years, so this one is more emotional,” Wuest said. “You overcome so many things.”
All that is left on her schedule is the final World Cup race of the season. It will take place starting on March 2 from her home country.
“I’ve only got one race left now, in Heerenveen, and after that, retirement,” Wuest said.
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