Gangneung, South Korea – Struggling through back and knee problems all season, Jorien ter Mors knew any conventional recovery would not make her an Olympic champion.
The unconventional, though, did the trick.
“As an athlete you are always a bit crazy,” ter Mors said. “You go for all or nothing.”
Ter Mors won the gold medal Wednesday in the 1,000 meters and kept the Netherlands perfect in speedskating at the Pyeongchang Games with five wins in five races.
Although few would have bet on her a week ago, ter Mors set an Olympic record in the 1,000 and posted the fastest time any woman has ever skated at sea level over the distance.
Quite a turnaround for a woman who looked like a crumpled pile of misery on the infield over Christmas after she failed to qualify for the 1,500 team, the distance in which she was the Olympic champion.
She knew the 1,000 could still give her an outside shot at gold and single-mindedly centered her attention on that distance. She was done with “careful,” done with “watch it.” Despite the lower back pain, it was time to start lifting weights – many and often – to build the explosiveness needed for the 2½-lap race that barely takes a minute.
“I started power training again,” she said. “When your back is not in great shape, it is a massive risk.”
As the games drew nearer, she felt her form come back. And on Wednesday, it was there for all to see.
With four medal favorites still to go, her time of 1 minute, 13.56 seconds could have stopped many challengers in their tracks. It beat the high-altitude Olympic mark that Chris Witty set to win at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games by 0.27 seconds.
“It was a perfect race,” said Ter Mors, who is not known for a fast start but couldn’t be matched once she hit her stride.
She punched the air after crossing the line, shouting “yes” between gritted teeth as she handily beat Brittany Bowe in the head-to-head pairing.
Nao Kodaira and Miho Takagi, expecting to finish 1-2 for Japan, had to settle for 2-3 behind ter Mors after both slumped over the last half lap.
Ter Mors has a chance for more gold in short-track speedskating. She will compete in the 1,500 in that discipline on Saturday, and she doesn’t want to count herself out.
“It is tough to predict,” Ter Mors said of the helter skelter event. “I’m in good shape but you have to make the right tactical choices during the race.”
But the way things are going for the Dutch, don’t count her out.
It has been all orange on the oval so far, and the Netherlands is favored to add a sixth gold on Thursday when Sven Kramer goes for another Olympic title in the 10,000.
Overall, the Dutch have won nine of 15 medals in long-track speedskating and also have two silvers on the short track, putting the nation with no mountains and little snow in second place in the overall medal standings at the Winter Games.
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