Sablikova wins women's 5000m gold

Wed Feb 24, 2010 10:51pm EST
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By Larry Fine

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic emerged as Vancouver's speedskating queen by completing a golden Olympic double in winning the women's 5,000 meters at the Richmond Olympic Oval on Wednesday.

The slender Sablikova added the long distance crown to her 3,000 meters title and surprising bronze in the 1,500m, with a time of six minutes 50.91 seconds.

The small-framed, 22-year-old donned a cowboy hat in the red, white and blue Czech colors and draped her nation's flag across her shoulders for her victory salute as her exuberant coach Petr Novak clutched her skates and kissed them in joy.

"She is definitely the queen of skating," IOC chief Jacques Rogge told reporters.

Once on the podium, Sablikova leaped straight up with her arms above her head from the top step with an electric smile that lit the oval.

Stephanie Beckert of Germany, who claimed silver behind Sablikova in the 3,000m, repeated that result by finishing second in 6:51.39.

Clara Hughes, the 37-year-old Canadian who won the race at the 2006 Turin Games, grabbed a heartwarming bronze medal with a time of 6:55.73.

Hughes won thunderous cheers from the home crowd, and when her medal became official after the last pair skated, she jogged around the infield waving to the crowd, who waved Canadian flags back at her.

"This was my last race on ice," Hughes told reporters. "I lived my dream today."

(additional reporting by Karolos Grohmann; editing by Miles Evans)

<p>Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic starts in the women's 5000 metres speed skating race at the Richmond Olympic Oval during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics February 24, 2010. REUTERS/Andy Clark</p>