Carlijn Achtereekte produced the best race of her life to seize the Olympic title and lead a Dutch podium sweep in the women’s 3,000-metre speed skating on Saturday. The 28-year-old skated in the fifth of 12 heats, well before the favourites, but her dazzling effort of 3:59.21 held up to win.
“A gold medal – it’s an incredible feeling. I cannot believe it,” Achtereekte said. “I feel so good.
“I thought I had to skate the best race of my life and I did it and I won – that’s incredible.”
Ireen Wust, the 2006 and 2014 champion, was 0.08sec behind to take silver, with Dutch Olympic trials winner Antoinette de Jong third in 4:00.02.
Achtereekte was third at the Dutch Olympic trials and second in last month’s European championships in 4:06.81, but became a shock winner when it mattered most.
“It was almost perfect,” Achtereekte said of her race. “It was so good a race. I skated so good.”
Wust was on pace for gold until her final lap at Gangneung Oval, faltering just enough at the finish to squander the title.
“I’m feeling OK, a little disappointed,” Wust said. “It was not good. I was on schedule for the gold but the last lap was too hard and I didn’t make it.”
Wust missed out on becoming the first Dutch woman to defend a Winter Olympic title, and only the second woman with back-to-back golds in the event.
Wust took her ninth Olympic speed skating medal, matching the all-time record total of Germany’s Claudia Pechstein and tying the Dutch career record for Olympic medals by equestrian rider Anky Van Grunsven.
But it was another near-miss for Wust, a four-time Olympic champion who also settled for silver in the 1,000m, 1,500m and 5,000m at Sochi in 2014.
“I have to be happy and I will be happy with silver, but I came for gold so it’s a little disappointing. It was a hard one,” Wust said.
Wust would have been the first Dutch athlete to win five Olympic golds in the Winter or Summer Games.
Pechstein, a record nine-time Olympic speedskating medallist who turns 46 later this month, missed her chance to win a medal at a sixth different Winter Olympics, finishing ninth in 4:04.49.
Italy’s Francesca Lollobrigida, the great-niece of famed 1950s actress Gina Lollobrigida, finished 13th in 4:08.58.
The unified Korea women’s ice hockey team were soundly beaten 8-0 by Switzerland on Saturday’s opening day of the Winter Olympics as sport and politics continued to mix in Pyeongchang.
When South Korea president Moon Jae-in shook hands with Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korea leader Kim Jong-un, at Friday night’s opening ceremony, many thought it was more than a polite gesture.
Relations may be thawing. Kim Yo-jong and Moon met in Seoul on Saturday, where it was reported she invited South Korea’s leader to Pyeongyang for the first summit between leaders of the neighbouring nations for 10 years.
Often it has said that sport and politics should not mix. But at these Olympics they are intertwined.
The build-up has been dominated by matters involving North Korea and Russia.
Kim Yo-jong and North Korea’s ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-nam were sitting beside International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach here, as a unified Korea team played in the Games for the first time.
Rarely can a ice hockey arena, one where sticks are swung, bodies are slammed and violence can break out, be considered the scene for rapprochement.
Yet last month the North agreed with South Korea to send 22 athletes and a 230-strong ‘cheering squad’ to Pyeongchang.
As 12 of those athletes in the unified ice hockey team took to the ice for the warm-up at Kwandong Hockey Centre, the cheering squad arrived, later dancing along with western music performed by two South Korean rappers.
The team played together for the first time last Sunday in Incheon, losing 3-1 to Sweden.
Here they met a Switzerland squad vastly more experienced at playing together.
Korea held firm until Swiss ace Alina Muller scored twice in quick succession midway through the first period.
And thereafter Switzerland appeared more likely to reach double figures than to concede a goal in a comfortable victory.
The handshake between the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean president Moon Jae-in was highlighted as Games organisers reflected on the opening ceremony for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
Kim Yo-jong had become the first member of the ruling Pyongyang family to set foot in the south since the end of the Korean War so her greeting with Moon Jae-in was seen as symbolic.
“It was a great moment,” said International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams during the first daily briefing of the Games.
“It opens the door and helps build bridges. The Olympic Games is a symbol of how things might be in the world.”
The North and South Korean teams marched side-by-side under a unified flag during the athletes’ parade section of the ceremony which ended with Korean skating superstar Kim Yu-Na, Olympic champion in Vancouver in 2010, lighting the Olympic flame to get the Games underway after being handed the torch at the top of an ice chute.
“As an athlete myself it was a great honour for me to be the last torch bearer,” she said.
“It has been a few years since I retired from skating but I was able to skate for a bit before lighting the cauldron and it was an unforgettable moment.”
Song Senung Hwan, executive creative director for the opening ceremony, said he had been able to make this most of his budget which was KRW60 billion (£40million).
“We had to create a ceremony on a limited budget with maximum impact. We started with a low budget but we were able to convey all our messages. I wanted to show that South Korea is a small but strong country.”
POCOG spokesman Sung Baik You was asked about a possible cyber attack on Friday night after some problems with technology. Televisions in the Main Press Centre were affected during the opening ceremony.
He said: “There were some issues which impacted some of our non critical systems for a few hours. We are investigating the cause and checking all systems. At the moment we cannot confirm the cause.”