Claudia Pechstein leaves Olympics empty handed

SOCHI, Russia (AP) - In the end, Claudia Pechstein walked away from her sixth Olympics with only a small distinction. No medal, no records, no revenge.

“Again, I was the best German. The old one must do it again,” the 41-year-old said. Yet that shred of satisfaction fell far short of her expectations.

The 5,000 meters has been her signature race ever since she won her first of three golds in the event at the Albertville Games 22 years ago.

She wanted to be back on the podium in Sochi. Instead, she finished fifth Wednesday, her famed stamina fading through another long-distance race on tough ice. She crossed the line slumped, but would not rule out trying again in four years.

“Why should this be the end?” she said rhetorically when asked if she might skate at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games in South Korea.

Exhaustion took over while Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic celebrated her second straight gold over the distance. She won her first 5,000 gold when Pechstein was forced to sit out the Vancouver Olympics because of a hotly contested doping suspension.

A sense of injustice has driven the German veteran ever since.

Pechstein was banned not based on a positive doping test, but a suspicious blood profile which she says is genetic. She said repeatedly she wanted to mount the medal stand in Sochi to show she had beaten the skating authorities.

With a total of nine medals overall she already had most of all speedskaters and another gold would have matched Soviet skater Lidiya Skoblikova’s total of six.

Pechstein was still the best of a slumping, medal-less German team. She came closest to getting on the podium in the opening race when she finished fourth in the 3,000 meters. She may have made a tactical error by deciding to race the 1,500, where she finished 19th. Sablikova sat out the race to be better prepared on Wednesday.

Pechstein blamed the track - “Not my kind of ice. Dutch ice,” she said, referring to the record performance of the Netherlands, which has won 21 of 30 medals so far.

It was not to be. “It was a dream, but not every dream comes through,” she said.

Still, an hour after the race, she was already dreaming again.

“That tenth medal in 2018 in Pyeongchang is still possible,” she said.

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