- Associated Press - Saturday, February 15, 2014

SOCHI, Russia (AP) - Ireen Wust looks to continue a dominant Olympics for herself and the Netherlands in the women’s 1,500 meters speedskating.

She’ll try to become the first Dutch woman to win three medals in the same event at the Winter Games when she competes Sunday. Wust won the event four years ago in Vancouver and took bronze in 2006.

Here are five things to watch for in the women’s 1,500 meters at Adler Arena:

GOLDEN WUST: Wust already has two medals in Sochi, capturing gold in the 3,000 and silver in the 1,000. Now, she’ll try to become the first Dutch Winter Olympian to win four gold medals in a career, having matched former skaters Ard Schenk, Yvonne van Gennip and Marianne Timmer. Wust is the defending champion in this event, plus she claimed a bronze in Turin eight years ago. Germany’s Gunda Niemann-Stirnemann is the only female skater to earn medals in the 1,500 at three straight Winter Games. Also, Wust is attempting to win her sixth career medal, which would equal Rintje Ritsma’s record for the most by a Dutch athlete.

STAGGERING AMERICANS: This might be the last U.S. hope for avoiding a medal shutout at the oval. But there’s little reason for the Americans to be optimistic despite sending out their two biggest female stars, Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe. Problems with a new high-tech suit prompted the team to switch back to its old suit right in the middle of the Olympics, an embarrassing ordeal that has severely shaken the skaters’ confidence. No American has finished higher than seventh at these games. The only U.S. woman ever to win gold in the 1,500 was Dianne Holum in 1972, and the U.S. hasn’t medaled since Jennifer Rodriguez’s bronze in 2002.

MIGHTY DUTCH: The Netherlands has won 13 speedskating medals in Sochi, equaling the mark set by East Germany at the 1988 Calgary Games. With five events remaining, and medal contenders in all of them, the Dutch should breeze right on by that record before they leave Russia. They have won four of seven events, swept the podium in two races, and earned at least one medal during each day of competition so far.

WUST’S PAIRING: Wust will skate in the 15th of 18 pairs with Ida Njaatun of Norway. That leaves six skaters after her to take aim at the Dutchwoman’s time. Among them is Bowe, who goes in the next-to-last pair. Bowe was eighth in the 1,000.

CLAUDIA’S PURSUIT: Claudia Pechstein goes for a record-tying 10th Olympic medal, although she’s a longshot. The 41-year-old German owns five golds, two silvers and two bronze from five previous games. She finished fourth in the 3,000 last weekend. She’ll skate in the last pair, knowing full well how fast she’ll need to go to get on the podium. She missed the Vancouver Games four years ago after being suspended for abnormal blood levels, although she had never failed a doping test and denied any wrongdoing.

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