Dutch speed skater Irene Schouten has captured her third gold medal of the Beijing Olympics, chasing down Canada’s Ivanie Blondin in the women’s mass start.
In the final speed skating event of the Winter Games, Schouten established herself as the biggest star at the Ice Ribbon in Beijing with a furious push to overtake Blondin.
Blondin grabbed the lead on the back straight, but Schouten roared back with an all-out sprint to the finish to win by 0.06 seconds.
“It’s amazing,” Schouten said. “I’m always good on the last straight, and I felt out of the corner I had a lot of speed. I had confidence that I could beat her.”
Schouten let out a scream as she crossed the stripe, celebrating another gold after her victories in the 3000 and 5000m.
She won the first and last speedskating events in Beijing, a fortnight apart.
“I’m so happy,” Schouten said. “I worked really, really hard. When I was young, I had a dream to have an Olympic gold. Now, to do it three times, it’s amazing.”
Bart Swings won the men’s mass start to make history for Belgium.
He became the first individual Winter Olympic gold medallist for his country, which had won its only previous gold in pairs figure skating at the 1948 Games.
“I always want to raise the bar to the next level,” Swings said.
Blondin settled for the silver, adding to the gold she won as part of team pursuit. The bronze went to Italy’s Francesca Lollobrigida, her second medal of the Olympics after claiming a silver in the 3000.
Blondin thought she had the gold when she surged past Schouten with about a half-lap to go.
“Maybe I went a little bit too early,” Blondin said. “I should have been a little more patient. But it’s mass start. You never know what can happen. Irene has been so strong these past few weeks, its just an honour for me to be second to her.”
Swings improved on the silver he won at the 2018 Games in the frenetic event – the only individual speed skating race with head-to-head, pack-style competition instead of racing against the clock in lanes.
There was plenty of shoving and grabbing, not to mention some shocking falls.
Defending Olympic champion Nana Takagi failed to advance to the final after falling again while leading on the final turn of her semifinal heat – a repeat of the tumble she took to cost Japan the gold in team pursuit.
Reigning world champion Marijke Groenewoud fell in the semi-finals and the final. She was able to get back up after the first mishap and qualify for the medal race, before finishing 11th.
South Korea grabbed the other men’s medals. Chung Jae Won took the silver and defending Olympic champion Lee Seung Hoon settled for bronze this time.
The Netherlands again topped the speedskating medal table, finishing with six golds and 12 medals overall.