On day one of the 2022 Winter Olympics, German speed skater and nine-time Olympic medalist Claudia Pechstein broke a few records despite finishing off the podium.
Competing in the women’s 3000m, the 49-year-old Pechstein became both the oldest woman to compete at a Winter Olympics and the second athlete – and only woman – to compete in eight Winter Games.
Pechstein also saw her 20-year-old Olympic record in this event destroyed. Dutch skater Irene Schouten crossed the line in 3:56.93 to win gold, breaking Pechstein’s Olympic record by 0.77 seconds. Pechstein finished in four minutes, 17.16 seconds, last in the 20-athlete field.
Italy’s Francesca Lollobrigida claimed silver while Canada’s Isabelle Weidemann picked up bronze.
Of the three medalists, only Lollobrigida was alive (just one year old) when Pechstein won her first Olympic medal – a bronze in the 5000m – at the 1992 Albertville Winter Games.
The previous women’s Winter Olympic age record was held by Anne Abernathy, a luger from the U.S. Virgin Islands who was 48 at her fifth Olympics in 2002.
If Pechstein wants to break the overall age record, she’ll need to keep competing til at least 2034 Winter Games. That record – according to Olympedia.org – is held by Swedish curler Carl August Kronlund, who was 58 years, 158 days old when he won silver in curling at the inaugural Winter Olympics in 1924.
Pechstein now shares the Winter Olympic participation record with Japanese ski jumper Noriaki Kasai, who competed at his eighth Games in PyeongChang. The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics would have been Pechstein’s ninth Olympics, but a blood doping ban in 2009 kept her out of the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Pechstein is also expected to compete in speed skating’s mass start event, which will be held on Saturday, February 19. The Berlin resident turns 50 on February 22, two days after the Closing Ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Earlier this week, when asked what her goal was for the Beijing Games, Pechstein replied with a laugh and a fitting answer for these Olympics: “To be negative for Covid.”
The NBC Olympics research team contributed to this report.
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