Unfancied Zhang wins women's 1,000m speed skating gold
China's Zhang Hong competes during the Women's Speed Skating 1000 m at the Adler Arena on February 13, 2014 - by Damien Meyer
Zhang, racing in the seventh pair, clocked 1min 14.02sec and was then forced to endure an agonisingly long wait as a further 11 pairs of skaters completed two-and-a-half laps around the Adler Arena oval.
Ireen Wust of the Netherlands, who earlier won 3,000m gold, took silver in a time of 1:14.69 and compatriot Margot Boer (1:14.90) won bronze as the Dutch continued their impressive showing in the speed skating events in Sochi.
"Now I am super-happy and it's hard to accept the reality that I have won in the 1,000m," said Zhang.
"I didn't care what time I went on the ice. I'm competing with myself. I was very nervous as I was waiting and I don't think anybody could have understood how I felt waiting," she added.
"I won, I won. Tomorrow is my coach's birthday so I want to give him the prize of me winning the 1,000m as a present," she said.
"I was planning on going back to China tomorrow but now I think I need to reschedule my ticket."
Russian 1,000m world champion Olga Fatkulina finished just outside the medals, while fancied American Heather Richardson, who has won three out of four World Cup races this season, could only finish seventh, 1.21sec off the pace.
World record holder Brittany Bowe of the United States took to the ice in the penultimate pair but could make no impression on the time of the 25-year-old Chinese, finishing eighth.
A number of skaters threatened Zhang's time during their skates but could not sustain their pace until the finish line.
Zhang's best World Cup performance this season in the 1,000m has been sixth.
"This was a tough one, but the time in the 1,000m is really good for me. I had a good start, but I missed the speed you need in the 1,000m," said silver medallist Wust.
"It was hard in the last few days. At the Olympic Games there are four days in between my last race and this one. It's hard to focus."
The Netherlands have won four gold medals in speed skating in Sochi and 12 medals in the sport in total. China and South Korea have one gold apiece.
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