SOCHI, Russia (AP) - German veteran Claudia Pechstein wanted a medal in the 3,000 meters to get back at speedskating authorities who forced her to miss the last Olympics.
Instead, the years caught up with her.
A hot favorite to at least medal in Sunday’s race, the 41-year-old faded badly in the final two laps and missed out on a chance to medal at six games and push her tally into double figures.
After she was forced to skip the Vancouver Games because of a hotly contested doping suspension, she vowed revenge. Instead, she finished 1.79 seconds behind bronze medalist Olga Graf of Russia.
“For me it is hard to be fourth. Now I hope for the race of my life in the 5,000,” she said of the longest distance race where she has already won 3 golds, a silver and bronze over 22 years. She has said it will be her last Olympic race.
Gold would make her the oldest Winter Games champion in an individual event - Ole Einar Bjoerndalen holds that honor after winning the biathlon 10-kilometer sprint at age 40 on Saturday.
It would also make her one of the most outstanding Olympians of all time.
It wasn’t to be on Sunday.
“The Olympics can be bitter,” Pechstein said.
They certainly were four years ago when she missed the Vancouver games because she was suspended for suspicious blood levels but without specific illegal products being found in a test. She blamed a hereditary blood anomaly.
The ban fueled a feeling of anger and resentment that has helped drive her for the past four years and festers to this day.
“Vancouver was stolen away from me,” she said Sunday.
Ireen Wust, the 2006 Dutch champion from the Turin Games, came back to claim a second gold in the event Sunday, beating defending champion Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic into second place.
After digesting her defeat, Pechstein started looking for a positive spin.
“In Turin, I finished fifth in the 3,000 and came back to take silver in the 5,000,” she said. “That is the event where I can really medal.”
And there was still a sense of accomplishment at Sunday’s race.
“To be fourth at 41, it isn’t that bad,” she said.
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