Entertainment, Sports

German speed skater Pechstein shatters new ground by becoming the oldest female Winter Olympian of all-time

It’s not often an athlete makes history while watching their Olympic record fall.

That’s exactly what happened to German speed skater Claudia Pechstein in Beijing as she became the oldest woman to compete at a Winter Olympics.

The 49-year-old surpassed the age record held by Anne Abernathy, a luger from U.S. Virgin Islands, who was 48 at Salt Lake City 2002.

Pechstein also became only the second athlete – and first woman – to compete at eight Winter Games after Japanese ski jumper Noriaki Kasai reached the milestone in 2018.

Having carried her nation’s flag at the opening ceremony, she finished last in a field of 20 in the 3000m event with a time of four minutes, 17.16 seconds.

“I was not too fast, but I smiled (after crossing the finish line) because today I got my goal to race in my eighth Olympic Games,” said Pechstein, who turns 50 in February.  “This was important for me.

“Yesterday I carried the flag (at the Opening Ceremony). It was an amazing moment, a top moment in my career.

“I am the only woman in the whole world to be at eight Olympic Winter Games. The result of today was not so important, it was just to race and to be here. I am super proud.”

Pechstein’s 20-year Olympic record for 3000m was broken by 0.77 seconds at the hands of Dutch star Irene Schouten, who won gold in 3:56.93.

The all-time record for most appearances at the Olympics is held by Canadian equestrian Ian Millar, who has featured at ten.

Pechstein could have been to nine Games were it not for a two-year ban that saw her miss Vancouver 2010.

In 2009, she was banned for two years because of irregularities in her blood profile – she didn’t test positive but her blood values were indicative of doping.

“I never expected eight Olympics,” she said. “Yesterday a Dutch journalist asked me, ’20 years ago you made your first Olympics’? I said ‘no, no, it’s been 30 years’.

“It’s really different now compared to other Olympics, but it’s a real special one because of the Covid situation.

“It’s just everything together. I’m just very proud to be here.”

At the other end of the scale, at the age of 15 years and six months Czech ski jumper Anezka Indrackova is the youngest athlete competing in Beijing.

“It means for me that I will fulfill my life dream so soon. It never occurred to me that I would succeed at the age of 15,” she said.

“I’m really grateful for this opportunity and I’m really looking forward to it. After all, it’s an Olympics.”

Watch All the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 live on discovery+, Eurosport and Eurosport app

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