GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA – Dutch skater Jorien ter Mors bounced back spectacularly from an injury-plagued season by claiming a gold medal in the Olympic women’s 1,000 meters at the Gangneung Oval on Wednesday.
Nao Kodaira, the heavy favorite, and Miho Takagi placed second and third, respectively.
The 28-year-old gold medalist set an Olympic record of 1 minute, 13.56 seconds. Kodaira was clocked in 1:13.82 and Takagi finished in 1:13.98. Arisa Go was 13th overall.
Kodaira, 31, had the chance to become the first Japanese female to win a speedskating gold medal at the Winter Olympics. She had failed to medal in individual events in her previous two Olympic appearances, fifth being her best placing in the 500, 1,000 or 1,500.
“It was a great skate,” Kodaira said of ter Mors’ effort. “The atmospheric pressure was dropping tonight so I thought we would see some fast times, but at the same time I knew I had to concentrate on myself.
“It was going really well for me up to the 600-meter lap. I fell behind a little at the end, but I think I was able to do my best through the finish line.”
Ter Mors, who won gold in the 1,500 at Sochi four years ago, did not defend that title in South Korea after failing to qualify in the distance due to a persistent knee injury.
She showed no signs of any lingering after-effects as she zoomed around the track in the shorter race to shave 0.27 seconds of the Olympic record.
She beat the 2002 Olympic mark of U.S. skater Chris Witty which was set at high altitude.
The victory came in an injury-marred season for ter Mors, who will compete for another gold in the short track later in the games.
“It was a perfect race,” ter Mors said, who is not known for a fast start. Once she hit her stride, no one could match her. She punched the air after crossing the line, shouting “yes” between gritted teeth
Dutch skaters have now topped the podium in all five speedskating events held so far, and they increased their tally to nine medals from an available 15.
The Dutch claimed 23 of 36 medals at the Sochi Games, and their dominance only seems to increase with each race in South Korea.
The two medals claimed by the Japanese skaters, including a second here for Takagi after her silver in the 1,500, proved why the country is tipped to become a future speedskating powerhouse.
“It would have been even better if we (Takagi and I) could stand side by side one place higher on the podium,” said Kodaira, who helped Japan claim the team pursuit silver at the Vancouver Olympics.
“We each have events left so I just hope we can each do our best there.”
Takagi, who nabbed the silver medal in the 1,500 meters on Monday, felt she had performed better than expected.
“I couldn’t get the gold, but I skated better than I thought considering my physical condition,” she said. “I was unsure how I’d do until the last minute because the 1,500 took a bigger toll on me than I imagined. I’m thankful my body held up.”