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Claudia Pechstein The Greatest Female Speedskater

Claudia Pechstein  The Greatest Female Speedskater

Being considered the greatest to ever compete in a sport is the highest honor anyone can have bestowed upon them. Michael Jordan in basketball, Wayne Gretzky in hockey, and Claudia Pechstein in speedskating. While the latter might not ring as many bells across the globe, people who follow speedskating know exactly what

Pechstein means to the sport at large, as she stands with the single-most wins by any athlete in World Championship, European and Olympic speedskating titles. She sealed the deal in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, yet she’s continued to win medals even in 2013. 

Claudia Pechstein

Born on February 22, 1972 in East Berlin, Germany, Claudia Pechstein is a speedskater who has experienced massive success over her career. Although she’s hoping to eventually make her return to the 2014 Winter Olympics as a cyclist, her heart has always been with speedskating. She starting skating as a young girl, and racing competitively as a teenager.

In total, Pechstein has been to five different Olympic Games, as well as multiple World Championships and European games. In 2009, Pechstein received surprising news by way of a two-year ban handed down by the International Skating Union, who accused her of blood doping due to increased reticulocyte levels. She denied doping and appealed on the basis of a genetic condition. Though there was no real evidence to suggest she had ever used drugs, the ban remained. Claudia served her suspension and has been back in action ever since.

2002 Winter Olympics Seals Deal for Pechstein

Pechstein first burst onto the scene in a big way in 1996, claiming silver medals at the World Championships in Hamar. She had already claimed Olympic medals before then, however, such as a bronze in both Lillehammer and Albertville in ’94 and ’92, but she began skating better nearer the 2000s, winning her first Olympic gold in 1998. In 2000 specifically, Pechstein won 3 gold medals in the Worlds, to go along with a silver. By the time the 2002 Winter Olympics arrived in Salt Lake City, Utah, Pechstein was on top of her game.

She competed very well in the 2002 Olympics, winning gold in the 3000 meter and 5000 meter events. The next few years were equally as kind to Claudia. She was dominating the field, decimating the European competition and offering no quarter at the Worlds. Her most dangerous event was the 5000m. She was already considered a master in this event, winning Olympic Gold in three consecutive games.

Even with other German rivals nipping closely at her heels, Pechstein remained the frontrunner in the sport, particularly in the 5000m event. However, Pechstein would be 34 years of age entering the Winter Games in Turin. As is usually the case, athletes on the wrong side of 30 often fail to compete with the much younger field.

Claudia had something to prove, however – to herself, to her fans, and especially to her critics who assumed she was a one-trick pony and could only excel in one event. Giving her a great head of steam going into the 2006 Turin Games, Pechstein claimed gold in the Euros for her allaround performance, signaling that she wasn’t just dominant in the 5000m.

Pechstein qualified for the 5000m speedskating event alongside some pretty stiff competition, including a pair of formidable Canadians, Cindy Klassen and Clara Hughes. It was a great, long race, with Pechstein drawing even with the two Canadians for much of the event. It was neck and neck down the stretch, and Pechstein barely lost out to Hughes’ time of 6:59.07, posting a 2nd place time of 7:00.08. Though it wasn’t a gold medal, winning the silver gave Claudia the most wins of any speedskater in history. And for good measure, she helped her team win gold in the term pursuit event.

Pechstein has a total of 59 championship medals, including 9 Olympic medals, 5 of which are gold, and over 30 World Championship medals. She’s the most decorated speedskater in history, and is considered the best in the business almost universally.

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