Winter Olympics: Dutchwoman Schouten wins gold in women's mass start

Irene Schouten's gold continues the Dutch dominance of the event at the Beijing Olympics. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Dutchwoman Irene Schouten swept around the National Speed Skating Oval on Saturday (Feb 19) to win gold in the women's mass start and continue the Dutch dominance of the event at the Beijing Olympics.

In a dramatic showdown between Schouten and Canadian Ivanie Blondin, Schouten broke away from the pack as the bell sounded signifying the last lap, before Blondin took an inner line to overtake her with half a lap to go.

Blondin still had the lead when they rounded the last corner, but Schouten skated with everything she had left to overtake the Canadian in the last few metres before the finish line.

The mass start title marks the third Beijing gold for the 29-year-old.

Blondin claimed silver and Francesca Lollobrigida of Italy took bronze.

It was a terrible case of deja vu for the defending champion Nana Takagi, who crashed out at the semi-finals, after she fell on the same corner that she slipped on at the women's team pursuit final at these Games.

Takagi was leading the pack when she slipped on the very last corner with the finish line in sight. The slip was reminiscent of her performance at the women's team pursuit final, where a fall on the same corner landed the leading Japanese team a silver and handed the gold to the Canadians.

The audience groaned as they saw her slip and Takagi looked distraught as she watched the pack speed away. She picked herself up and skated to the finish line far behind the rest, just as she had in the team pursuit.

Over in the men's mass start, Belgian Bart Swings skated to his country's first Winter Games gold medal in 74 years.

Bart Swings celebrates tafter winning the men's speed skating at the National Speed Skating Oval in Beijing on Feb 19, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

The silver medallist from Pyeongchang initially hung back before the race turned into an intense sprint to the finish line. Still in second place, Swings skated for his life as he rounded the final corner to overtake the leader and thrust his legs out at the finish line in desperate hopes to be the first to cross it.

He immediately looked up to see the results and threw his hands up in delight when he saw that he had become the first Belgian to clinch the Winter Games gold in over seven decades, since Micheline Lannoy and Pierre Baugniet won gold in the pairs figure skating competition in 1948.

Chung Jae-won of South Korea claimed silver and compatriot Lee Seung-hoon took bronze.

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