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Who is Ireen Wuest?

Ireen Wuest
USA Today Sports

Who is Ireen Wuest?

Meet the Dutch speed skater who won five medals, more than any other athlete, at the 2014 Sochi Olympics

Four years ago, Ireen Wuest dominated the Sochi Olympics by winning five medals and proving she's one of the strongest all-around speed skaters ever. She's aiming for another five medals in PyeongChang.

Speed skating beginnings

Wuest was born on April 1, 1986 in Goirle, a suburban town in the southern part of the Netherlands. The daughter of a speed skater, Wuest followed her father onto the ice when she was 12.

As a girl, she balanced her skating training with playing tennis and field hockey, but eventually decided to focus on skating and leave the other sports behind.

Breakout moment

Wuest had a decorated junior career, winning two allround medals at the World Junior Speed Skating Championships while still in her teens: silver in 2004 and gold in 2005.

Olympic experience

Wuest made her Olympic debut at the 2006 Torino Winter Games when she was 19 years old. Having only recently started competing on the senior level, Wuest was not favored for the podium in any of her events. But in her very first race, the 3000m, Wuest outskated a field that included the world record holder to win her first Olympic gold medal. She became the youngest Dutch athlete to become a Winter Olympic champion.

Wuest also won bronze in the 1500m at the Torino Games.

Four years later at the 2010 Vancouver Olympis, Wuest improved in the 1500m to win her second career Olympic gold. It was the only medal she brought home from Vancouver, although she finished in the top 10 in her other three events.

The year before the 2014 Olympics, Wuest won five medals at the 2013 World Single Distance Championships, and she hoped to repeat that performance by going five-for-five in her races at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. She succeeded in historic fashion, claiming gold medals in the 3000m and in the team pursuit with the Dutch women, and then earning a trio of silver medals in the 1000m, 1500m and 5000m events.

Major competitions

Over the course of her career, Wuest has won 26 total medals at the World Single Distance Championships and 11 medals at the World Allround Championships.

At the 2017 World Single Distance Championships, Wuest showed her skating prowess is far from fading by winning the 3000m and team pursuit world titles, plus picking up a silver in the 1500m. She is also the reigning allround world champion.

Records held

With five medals, Wuest was the most decorated athlete across any sport in Sochi.

She has eight total Olympic medals, making her one short of matching Claudia Pechstein, who has nine, as the most decorated Olympic speed skater of all time.

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While many skaters tend to focus on just the longer distance events or the shorter sprint events, Wuest prides herself on being a true all-around skater who excels in nearly every kind of race. She’s won world championships medals in five different events: 1000m, 1500m, 3000m, 5000m and team pursuit. The only races she’s never won at the world or Olympic level are the 500m, the shortest distance, and the mass start, which is a newer race making its Olympic debut in 2018.

Wuest has stated that she hopes to go five-for-five, winning five medals in all five events she enters, for a second straight Olympics in PyeongChang.

Top quotes

“That was my goal, to win five medals, because at the [2013] World Single Distance [Championships] I had won five as well. But that it worked out that way was just incredible, it still gives me a really happy feeling when I look back to the Olympics. All the Olympics were special to me, but that one was really special.” – Ireen Wuest on the 2014 Sochi Olympics

Off the ice

Wuest enjoys sailing and rewarded herself after Sochi by buying herself a small motorized canal boat, called a sloep. She said she hopes to buy a bigger sailboat after she retires from skating.

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Speed Skating

Learn more about the top U.S. and international speed skaters competing in PyeongChang.

Shani Davis | Heather Bergsma | Joey Mantia | Brittany Bowe | KC Boutiette | Sven Kramer | Ireen Wuest | Jorrit Bergsma | Lee Sang-Hwa | Lee Seung-Hoon

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