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Speedskating rivalry resumes in women’s 5,000

February 18, 2014

SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Ireen Wust of the Netherlands and Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic renew their speedskating rivalry in the Olympic women’s 5,000 meters.

Wust won gold in the 3,000 in Sochi, and Sablikova took silver. Wust will be seeking her fourth medal of these Winter Games in Wednesday’s race. She also earned a pair of silvers in the 1,000 and 1,500.

Sablikova withdrew from the 1,500 to focus on the longest of the women’s individual races. She swept the 3,000 and 5,000 four years ago in Vancouver. Sablikova is a six-time world champion in the 5,000.

Here are five things to watch for in the women’s 5,000 at Adler Arena:

STAR PAIRING: Wust and Sablikova will skate head-to-head as the seventh of eight pairs. Sablikova was happy to win silver in the 3,000 because of the fast times posted, but she wouldn’t feel good about it happening again. Wust is looking to make up for her loss to teammate Jorien ter Mors in the 1,500.

SKATING MOM: Carien Kleibeuker of the Netherlands is a 35-year-old mother with a shot at the podium. She’ll be the oldest female speedskater to represent her country at the Winter Games. She was 10th in the 5,000 at the 2006 Turin Olympics, where she witnessed a bribery attempt by two members of the Dutch speedskating team. In 2009, Kleibeuker was called as a witness by the Netherlands Olympic Committee and Sports Federation, which found that coach Ingrid Paul offered Polish skater Katarzyna Bachleda-Curus money to forfeit the race. If she had withdrawn, it would have allowed Gretha Smit into the race. Bachleda-Curus refused. Kleibeuker has a 5-year-old daughter.

HOME ICE: Olga Graf earned the host country’s first medal of the Sochi Games when she took bronze in the 3,000 with a personal-best time on home ice. The Russian was buoyed by the crowd support that she will surely receive again.

DUTCH SWEEP?: The Dutch have swept four speedskating events in Sochi, and with three women competing in the 5,000 they have a shot at doing it again. Besides Wust and Kleibeuker, their third skater is Yvonne Nauta, who goes against Claudia Pechstein in the final pairing. The Dutch men have swept three events, while their female teammates swept the 1,500.

PECHSTEIN GOES FOR FOURTH: Pechstein won the 5,000 at the 1994, 1998 and 2002 Olympics. The 41-year-old German is seeking her 10th career medal in Sochi. She also owns silver and bronze, having medaled in the event five of the seven times it’s been contested at the games. Pechstein was fourth in the 3,000 last weekend.

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