World Speed Skating Championships in Heerenveen (Netherlands), women's 5000 m race, March 5, 2023. Martina Sáblíková from the Czech Republic.
Heerenveen (Netherlands) – Speed skater Martina Sáblíková won two bronze medals at the World Championships in Heerenveen and confirmed at the age of 35 that she is a force to be reckoned with. The three-time Olympic champion in the Netherlands continued to collect third places at major events. She also won bronze last year at the Olympic Games in Beijing.
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“It's like the Bronze Age,” said Sáblíková to ČTK and Czech Radio. “I don't admit that I'm as old as I am. But I'm glad that I'm doing well on the ice in my own way. Today's top five was fantastic for me. I had the strength to go to the end and I admit that I was very scared because I this year she only drove one top five. In addition, in Canada I drove disastrously due to problems with my leg,” she said.
At the beginning of December, she cut her leg in a fall in training in Calgary, and then jumped into the World Cup when she was not 100% fit. But she had to go to qualify for the World Cup. “I'm very happy for how the whole season turned out. I couldn't have wished for more. I'm going home with two bronze medals and I'm very satisfied,” she said.
Sáblíková presented herself today in the Thialf hall in the fourth out of six heats and after crossing the finish line she got to the front. Then she watched Canadians Isabelle Weidemann and Valerie Maltais battle it out, and when neither of them could beat her, she knew she had a medal. We all knew who was driving in the last pair. Irene and Ragne are now sharing it with each other, they are driving incredibly,” said Sáblíková. Even because she set the best European time in her career, she hoped for a moment that she could also win the eleventh title in the top five. “Of course I wished for it, but I'm a realist. I know what they can do,” she said.
The most important thing for the native of Nové Město na Moravá was that she felt good about her performance in Heerenveen. “Today was the last race of the season that went flawlessly. Probably the same as last year, when I was third in the top three here at the World Cup finals and the first two were colleagues here,” Sáblíková pointed out to Schoultenová and Wiklundová standing next to her.
Until this year's WC, Sáblíková was historically the youngest winner of an individual race, in the Netherlands she was deprived of this record by 18-year-old American Jordan Stolz. But the Czech long-distance star can now become the oldest gold medalist, the International Skating Union in its official materials before the championship drew attention to the fact that Sáblíková can surpass Bob de Jong.
“I don't know what would have to happen with those two to prove it,” she laughed. “I don't think about it at all and I don't think about it. It's very balanced at the front and it depends on how well someone is doing. I didn't know until the last minute today, even with Weidemann, whether she would beat me. This is what makes sport beautiful,” she added more seriously.
< p>“In addition, there is a great atmosphere here and you always want to stand here again and again. And you don't care if you are first or fifth. Just standing here at the start is something you won't experience anywhere else,” remarked the living legend, as local announcer Sáblíková represents. “I always have to laugh. When they say that in this atmosphere, you don't know what to do. On the one hand, it's a joy, on the other, a responsibility. You want to start jumping in the air and run away at the same time,” said Sáblíková.