Host City: Torino, Italy
Venue(s): Lingotto Oval, Torino
Date Started: February 25, 2006
Date Finished: February 25, 2006
The two top contenders for the title in this event were Claudia Pechstein (Germany) and Clara Hughes (Canada). Pechstein had medaled in the Olympic 5,000 m every time since 1992, winning it in 1994, 1998 and 2002. Her winning time in 2002 was also the world record, and she had additionally won the 2003 World Championships. Clara Hughes was a former cyclist, having medaled in the 1996 Olympics. Returning to her first sport, speed skating, she won a third Olympic bronze in that sport in 2002. An expert in the longest distance on the women’s programme, Hughes had won the World Championships in 2004.
Two other medal contenders were not skating in Torino. 2002 runner-up Gretha Smit had made the Dutch team, but could not race as Dutch performances in the Olympic 3000 m meant that only two Dutch skaters could race. Polish skater Katarzyna Wójcicka later revealed she had been offered more than €40,000 to forfeit her place in the race in favor of Smit, although this was later denied by both Smit and her coach Ingrid Paul. The reigning World Champion, Anni Friesinger of Germany, was also missing from the starting list, citing exhaustion after four Olympic races.
The race followed the draw closely, with the best times coming from the last two pairs. The Czech flagbearer, junior skater Martina Sáblíková had hoped to win her country’s first ever Olympic speed skating medal in her favorite event. She was pegged against Cindy Klassen, who had already won four medals during the Games, including a gold medal in the 1500 m. As expected, Klassen started very fast, leaving Sáblíková far behind. The fast pace left Klassen exploding in the final laps, seeing her 5-second lead decrease rapidly in the last two laps. In the end, she managed to stay less than a second ahead of Sáblíková.
The final pair was one of the more exciting races of the Olympics. Pechstein sprinted away from known slow-starter Hughes. As both trailed Klassen’s fast split times, Hughes gradually picked up. At 4 km, Pechstein appeared to make a decisive move, but Hughes countered and first led the race at 4,600 m, albeit only by 0.15 seconds. With both skaters still two seconds behind Klassen’s time, Hughes outsprinted Pechstein for the gold, with the German finishing fast enough to also beat Klassen for the silver.
|4||Martina Sáblíková||18||Czech Republic||CZE||7:01.38||21.17||54.19||1:27.54||2:00.67||2:33.54||3:06.65||3:39.68||4:13.17||4:46.82||5:20.74||5:54.57||6:28.16|
|7||Catherine Raney Norman||25||United States||USA||7:04.91||21.00||53.53||1:26.55||2:00.00||2:33.31||3:06.76||3:40.31||4:14.10||4:48.00||5:22.08||5:55.79||6:29.98|