Bitter loss led to a 2-day wait for Olympic gold for Wust

Ireen Wust of Netherlands competes during the women's 1,500 meters speedskating race at the Gangneung Oval at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
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AP Sports Writer

GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — Very few can rise to the occasion quite like Ireen Wust. The Dutchwoman set the record for most Olympic medals in speedskating by winning the 1,500 meters on Monday, spurred on by a bitter loss on the opening day of competition.

“Only gold is the one that counts for me,” Wust said, reflecting on the medal that eluded her by only 0.08 seconds in the 3,000 on Saturday.

Two days after that disappointing silver medal, Wust stormed back with a stirring last lap to win the 1,500 and turn the Oval into another Dutch party scene.

Wust won her fifth Olympic gold medal, and her 10th medal overall, beating the record set by Claudia Pechstein. She finished ahead of Miho Takagi of Japan on Monday, while Marrit Leenstra made sure two more speedskating medals went to the Netherlands.

After three events, the Dutch have won six of the nine medals. It was nearly seven but Takagi’s silver broke up another Dutch sweep and left Lotte van Beek in fourth.

“I am not able to count right now but I think it will be like Sochi,” Wust said of the games four years ago when the Dutch won 23 of 36 medals.

Yet again, orange was the color of the Oval while American teammates Brittany Bowe and Heather Bergsma slumped to fifth and eighth, respectively.

Wust, still rolling on at 31, now has gold medals from the last four Olympics, going back to the 2006 Turin Olympics.

“On Feb. 12, exactly 12 years ago, was the day I won my first gold medal in Turin,” she said. “I had a dream to win four gold medals, in each Olympics. Now I achieved that dream.”

The hardnosed veteran even broke into tears, knowing her loss on Saturday was little more than a hiccup in her golden career.

Wust was the first of the favorites to race Monday and she finished in 1 minute, 54.35 seconds. Takagi was in the final pairing and finished 0.20 seconds behind.

When she saw her time held up after Takagi crossed the line, Wust leaped into the air with both arms raised and jumped into the arms of a coach.

She then ran around the infield, crying and blowing kisses to the crowd. She raced over to the orange-clad Dutch crowd after the ceremony and tossed her mascot into the stands.

Wust is coming off a lackluster year on the ice. Her early form disappointed her and an imminent biography was kept from the bookshelves until after the Olympics amid reports it ruffled her nerves.

Still, when she sniffed another Olympics coming, she was ready to embrace the pressure.

“It is not that I am afraid of it, I just love it,” she said.

That is perhaps the difference between Wust and Takagi, who had been unbeaten over the distance coming into the Pyeongchang Games.

Instead of centering on her race alone, Takagi said she was too concerned about Bergsma.

“I know the Olympics is different,” Takagi said, giving a nod to Wust. “Winning at the Olympic Games is her great talent.”