Host City: Vancouver, Canada
Venue(s): Richmond Olympic Oval, Richmond
Date Started: February 26, 2010
Date Finished: February 27, 2010
Format: Single-elimination event.
Canada was the team to beat in this competition. The reigning World Champions, they had a strong showing in the pre-season, winning two of the three World Cup races, while placing second to Russian in the third. Not only did the Canadians have several star skaters, they had also trained exhaustively for the event, still relatively new. But the competition delivered surprise after surprise.
First, the strong Russian team suffered a shock quarter-final defeat at the hands of Poland, after one of the Russians fell behind in the later stages of the race. Then, it was the unheralded Americans who silenced the Canadian crowd by beating the favorites. Canada had been leading with ease, but had not paid attention to the splits of their opponents, and had failed to accelerate.
The second semi-final provided even more excitement. Defending champion Germany was facing the Americans, and they had a solid lead for most of the race. But their star skater, [Anni Friesinger], who had almost been left out of the team due to poor shape caused by injury, struggled in the final lap. While trying to close the gap with ther team mates, Friesinger fell in sight of the finish line. With swimming motions and by turning her skates towards the line, the Germans nevertheless managed to finish ahead of the Americans.
In the final, Germany faced Japan, which had reached the final with relative ease. The Japanese opened up a large lead over the Germans, who raced without Friesinger. But the three Asians totally collapsed in the final lap, resulting in a photo finish. Germany came out the winners, with just 0.02 separating gold and silver. The bronze medal race was also remarkable. The Americans brought in Catherine Raney-Norman, which eventually cost them the bronze. She couldn't follow the pace of the Americans, who were leading up to that point. The Polish team, of which even the best skater (Katarzyna Bachleda-Curuś) rarely featured in the top-10 of international competitions, thus won a completely unexpected bronze medal. It was the first bronze medal since 1960, when Poland had claimed two medals in the sport's début for women.