Sablikova retains 5,000m gold

Wed Feb 19, 2014 12:16pm EST
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By Patrick Johnston

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Speed skater Martina Sablikova became the Czech Republic's most successful Olympian - summer or winter - after she battled nerves and the dominant Dutch to retain the women's 5,000 meters title on Wednesday.

Sablikova clocked six minutes, 51.54 seconds for her 12-and-a-half laps in the penultimate heat of eight alongside Ireen Wust of Netherlands, who took silver after finishing 2.74 seconds back.

The 26-year-old's three golds, one silver and one bronze putt her just ahead of her compatriot, triple Olympic javelin champion Jan Zelezny, who won two of his medals competing for the former Czechsolovakia.

"My greatest feeling right now is that my feet hurt, but I'm very happy," the shy Sablikova told reporters.

"I was really nervous, I couldn't sleep until 0200 last night, when I realized 5,000 people came to watch today, I got even more nervous.

"It's great to win it here in Sochi as well, and this time in front of all my family. They came here today especially for this race, and it's just great to win."

Sablikova was dubbed the "queen of skating" four years ago in Vancouver after winning the 3,000m and 5,000m Olympic titles but, like most at the Adler Arena, had already tasted defeat at the hands of the Dutch, who had won six of nine races on the oval.

Wust had pushed her into second place in the 3,000m on the opening weekend of competition in Sochi and started the longest women's race at a powerful pace.   Continued...