Pechstein still going strong into her 40s

Wed Feb 19, 2014 12:25pm EST
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By Julian Linden

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Claudia Pechstein might be the grand dame of women's speed skating with five Olympic golds to her name, but the evergreen German is showing no signs of slowing down.

Three days before her 42nd birthday, and 22 years after she first appeared at the Winter Olympics, she is going as strong as ever.

On Wednesday she lined up alongside her younger rivals in the 5,000 meters, the longest and most grueling race on the women's program, and though she missed out on another medal by finishing fifth, it made little difference to the sport's most decorated competitor.

"It doesn't matter," she told reporters at the Adler Arena.

"It was the best performance I could do and I delivered my best. It's too bad I didn't win a medal, but the competition was tight."

Racing in the final heat against Yvonne Nauta, a rising 22-year-old Dutch skater who was less than a year old when Pechstein first appeared at the Olympics, it was almost like old times.

Pechstein set off at a cracking pace and was on course for a medal midway through the 12-and-a-half lap race. But the fast pace took its toll and she began to tire over the final few laps, crossing the line in six minutes 58.39 seconds.

Pechstein did beat her younger opponent but was almost seven seconds behind the gold medalist, Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic, and nearly three seconds away from claiming the bronze.   Continued...

Germany's Claudia Pechstein skates during the women's 5,000 metres speed skating race at the Adler Arena in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games February 19, 2014. REUTERS/Issei Kato