Suzanne Schulting of the Netherlands won all five events at the world short track speed skating championships over the weekend, but one gold medal stood out in particular.
Schulting, 23, and teammates were in tears after she won the 500m on Saturday on home ice in Dordrecht.
“The first thing I thought about really was Lara,” Schulting said, according to an International Skating Union translation.
At the last world championships in 2019, countrywoman Lara van Ruijven took gold in the 500m sprint. Van Ruijven died last July following complications from an autoimmune disorder after feeling ill at a training camp in the French Pyrenees. She was 27.
“You are in my heart forever,” Schulting wrote on Instagram then.
“After we left the hospital in Perpignan and went back to Font-Romeu, after saying goodbye to Lara, I had set myself an important goal,” Schulting said on Saturday, according to the ISU. “I wanted to keep the world title in the 500m within the Dutch team.”
Schulting was not previously known as a sprinter. In 2018, she won the 1000m in PyeongChang to become the first Olympic short track champion for the Netherlands, the most successful nation in long-track speed skating with 42 gold medals. (Schulting started out in long track. A coach suggested she try short track to practice skating corners, and she got hooked.)
In 2019 and 2020, she ranked No. 1 in the world in the 1000m and the 1500m. She was outside the top five in the 500m, uniquely often an all-out race for a little more than 40 seconds, where the start can be crucial.
Schulting had no chance to put her offseason sprint work to the test in international competition until last week. The World Cup season, which usually starts in the autumn, was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Expectations increased for Schulting to excel at her home worlds after South Korea and China, historically the world’s top two short track nations, did not enter teams. Kim Boutin, the top female skater from Canada, another strong nation, also chose not to travel.
Before Saturday’s 500m final, van Ruijven’s last race was shown on big screens inside the arena, according to the ISU.
Schulting had the advantageous lane one, closest to the inside, and took the lead going into the first turn. She held it through the full four and a half laps, denying reigning Olympic champion Arianna Fontana of Italy.
“It’s so impressive to see that, with all the pressure, everybody expects her to do it, she still does it,” teammate and bronze medalist Selma Poutsma said.
Kristen Santos was fourth, the best finish for an American at worlds since the nation’s last medal in 2014.
Schulting won the 1500m and 500m on Saturday, then the 1000m, 3000m and relay on Sunday, taking the overall title, too. She became the second woman to win every gold at a worlds after Canadian Sylvie Daigle in 1983, according to Gracenote.
Also at worlds, Canadian Charles Hamelin won the men’s 1500m at age 36, becoming one of the oldest individual world champions in history. Hamelin, a medalist at the last four Olympics, including three golds, contemplated retirement after the PyeongChang Winter Games.
Since deciding to skate on, he came back from right knee surgery and an ankle sprain that sidelined him for three months. In 2022 at his last Olympics, he eyes what he says is the last missing piece from his trophy cabinet: an Olympic 1000m medal.
Hungarian brothers Shaoang Liu and Shaolin Sandor Liu won the 500m and 1000m, respectively, with Shaoang taking the men’s overall title.
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