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Wust wins duel of Olympic speed skating champs

Feb. 9, 2014 at 8:46 AM   |   Comments

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SOCHI, Russia, Feb. 9 (UPI) -- Irene Wust won a battle of Olympic speed skating champions Sunday and an unheralded Russian claimed the host nation's first medal of the Sochi Games.

Wust, from the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic's Martina Sablikova were the gold medal winners in the 3,000-meter event at the last two Olympics and they were expected to duel in the first of the women's speed skating competitions in Sochi.

Sablikova was the first to skate and she recorded what, at that moment, was the best time of the day at 4:01.95. She became the first Czech skater to win an Olympic speed skating medal when she picked up gold for both 3,000 and 5,000 meters in Vancouver.

Wust skated in the next pair and the 2006 champion regained her title with a time of 4:00.95. That gave the Netherlands two golds in as many speed skating races at these Olympics. Sven Kramer won the men's 5,000-meter race to open the Olympic speed skating program Saturday.

For the home crowd, however, the biggest cheers were reserved for Olga Graf. The Russian has finished no better than fourth in any World Cup circuit race this season, but on the biggest stage she won the bronze medal in 4:03.47.

This race was the ninth medal event staged in and around Sochi during the opening weekend of the Olympics and it was the first time a Russian had stood on the medal podium.

In addition to winning Russia's first medal, Graf prevented Claudia Pechstein from adding to her large collection.

Pechstein, 41, of Germany, was trying for the 10th Olympic medal of her career. She first appeared in the Olympics 22 years ago in Albertville and has won five times. Pechstein finished fourth on Sunday, missing out on a medal by 1.79 seconds.

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