Speed skater Ireen Wüst makes Olympics history winning gold at fifth consecutive games

Ireen Wüst, an Olympic speed skater, poses with a panda mascot for the Beijing Olympics while wearing an orange jacket

Speed skater Ireen Wüst has gone down in Olympics history as the first athlete to claim individual gold medals at five consecutive games.

The 35-year-old was already the most decorated speed skater in Winter Olympics history after she won gold at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games in South Korea.

Four years later, she has continued her absolute domination in the sport with a victory in the women’s 1500m event at the National Speed Skating Oval in Beijing on Tuesday (7 February).

Wüst, who is representing the Netherlands, won the gold by 0.44 seconds, setting a new Olympic record time of 1:53.28. She edged out Japan’s Miho Takagi for the top medal, and Wüst’s teammate Antoinette de Jong came in third at the event.

Wüst said she didn’t know what was the secret behind her successful career, but she thought it might have something to do with the ‘magic’ of being in the Olympic competition.

“I just see the rings and something magical happens,” she said.

Wüst said the win “means a lot”, but this latest victory hasn’t quite set in yet.

“Ask me this question again in 10 days,” she joked. “I’m an emotional mess in my head.”

This latest triumph is her sixth gold overall, all in individual events spread out over five Olympics. It is also her 12th Olympic speed skating medal in total.

According to the New York Times, she is also the oldest speed skating gold medalist ever.

Ireen Wüst began her remarkable Olympic career in 2006 at the Torino games, where she won gold in the 3,000 metres and bronze in the 1,500 metres events. She has continued to collect medals in the Vancouver (2010), Sochi (2014), Pyeongchang (2018) and now the Beijing games.

Wüst had previously been part of an elite group of Olympic athletes – both in the summer and winter games – to win individual golds across four consecutive games. She has now edged out athletes such as Michael Phelps, Carl Lewis and Al Oerter.

Wüst confirmed after her history-making win that she would retire after the Beijing Olympic games and the end of the season, the New York Times reported.

She told the news outlet that she plans to marry her fiancée, Letitia de Jong, this summer. Wüst said she is also looking forward to exploring her life outside the competitive world of elite speed skating.

“I always say age is just a number,” she said. “But I’m 35, and I really want to have children so at some point you have to quit.”