WINTER OLYMPICS : Rothenburger Wins Speed Skating Gold; Blair Takes Bronze
Christa Rothenburger of East Germany, flying on ice in the final lap, set a world record Friday night to upset compatriot Karin Kania and win the 1,000-meter speedskate at the Winter Olympics.
Bonnie Blair of Champaign, Ill., although beaten down to third place by her powerful East German rivals, became the first American to win two medals in the two weeks of these Games.
Blair’s bronze was the fifth medal of the Games for the United States, assuring the Americans of avoiding their worst medal count ever in the Winter Olympics.
Rothenburger, the silver medalist to Blair in the 500 meters, registered a time of 1 minute, 17.65 seconds to edge Kania by five-hundredths of a second.
This was the first defeat for Kania at 1,000 meters in more than a year, coming less than two minutes after she had bettered her previous world mark of 1:18.11 set on the same Olympic oval in December. Kania was the defending Olympic champion and also is the world chamption at 1,000 meters.
Despite losing the gold, Kania, 26, still came away with her second medal this week, giving her a total of seven in three Winter Games. That is more than any other woman speedskater and equals the Olympic record of seven set by Clas Thunberg of Finland in the 1920s.
The East German women now have captured six of the nine medals in speedskating at these Games and are virtually certain to add more in the final two races this weekend.
Blair, racing in the third pair of the evening, swept into the lead at that point with a time of 1:18.31. As she took a lap around the track following her race, she shushed the cheering American crowd, requesting silence for the next pair about to start.
Kania, in that next group, put her own finale to the American applause by bettering Blair’s mark with a 1:17.70. Immediately following that, however, Rotherburger topped them all with her gold-medal winning performance.
After 600 meters, Rothenburger was a half-second off the pace of Kania but she was able to overcome this in the final lap. Rothenburger won the 500 gold medal four years ago at Sarajevo.