Host City: Lillehammer, Norway
Venue(s): Olympic Hall, Hamar
Date Started: February 25, 1994
Date Finished: February 25, 1994
Despite her fall in the 3,000 m and placing "only" third in the 1,500 m, [Gunda Niemann] was still the top favorite for the Olympic gold in the 5,000 m. Since her appearance in the Olympic 5,000 m of Calgary (1988), in which she placed 7th despite a fall, Niemann had not lost an international 5,000 m. She had won the distance at the 1989, 1991, 1992 and 1993 World Championships, the 1989-1994 Europeans, the 1992 Olympics, and in 8 World Cup events. To top off the list, she had obtained her latest World Cup victory on in Hamar in December 1993 by improving her own world record to 7:13.29.
As in the other Olympic events, things did not go Niemann's way. First, her team mate, [Claudia Pechstein] set a surprisingly fast time. While a bronze medallist in 1992 and in the 1994 3,000 m, she had been ill earlier in the season, and with 7:33.58, her 5,000 m personal best was 20 seconds behind the world record. But after a very steady race, Pechstein's time was 7:14.37, only a second from Niemann's best. The next race, a second racer beat 7:20. It was [Hiromi Yamamoto] of Japan. Despite being the Asian champion in the event, she was virtually unknown. Her only pre-Olympic feat had been a second place in the 3,000 m at a January World Cup, although that competition lacked several top skaters. Her time of 7:19.68 would be enough for bronze. Niemann raced in pair six, and started off very fast. For 3,800 m, she was below her own world record schedule. But with lap times increasing, that time fell out of sight, while the gap with Pechstein's splits got smaller. At 4,600 m, Niemann was one tenth slower than her team mate, and the gap grew even further to half a second in the final lap. Pechstein's gold medal would turn out to be the first of three consecutive titles in the event for her, winning two more in 1998 and 2002. In 1992, she also won a bronze medal, and in 2006 Pechstein finished second, making for a total of 5 medals in the 5,000 m.
Of the other competitors, it appeared that Italian [Elena Belci] would be unable to compete. Like Niemann, she had been disqualified in the 3,000 m, and new rules required a place among the best 16 of the 3,000 m for starting places in the 5,000 m. After Poland and Romania forfeited a spot in favor of Italy, unsubstantiated rumors appeared of bribes by the Italians. Belci, considered a potential medalist, eventually finished fourth.
|11||Tonny de Jong||19||Netherlands||NED||7:36.07||20.75||55.05||1:30.26||2:06.65||2:42.92||3:19.43||3:56.01||4:32.61||5:09.32||5:45.99||6:22.58||6:59.65|