On Tuesday, we witnessed the Netherlands' dominance in speedskating once again. The Dutch swept the men's 10,000-meter event, as Jorrit Bergsma set a new Olympic record with a time of 12 minutes, 44.45 seconds. On Day 12 of the 2014 Olympic Games, the ladies will get their chance.
The field in the ladies' 5,000-meter event is a deep one and is full of talent. Plenty of these athletes have legitimate shots at a trip to the podium. Due to the star power that will be showcased here, this is certainly one discipline that should not be missed.
Let's take a look at the schedule, viewing information and outlook of this event, as well as give a prediction of which athletes will ultimately reach the podium.
What: Speedskating: Ladies' 5,000-meters
Where: Adler Arena Skating Center
When: Wednesday, Feb. 19
TV Time: 3 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBCOlympics.com
Once Day 11 of the Olympics concluded, the Netherlands tied the United States atop the medal count with 20 each. What makes this so impressive for the Dutch is the fact that 19 of those 20 medals came from speedskating events.
On Wednesday, the Netherlands looks to shine again, as Ireen Wust is set to take to the ice. Wust has been phenomenal so far in Sochi. She has already earned three speedskating medals—silver medals in the ladies' 1,000-meter and 1,500-meter events and a gold medal in the ladies' 3,000-meter race.
She will be looking for her fourth medal on Day 12. Wust has yet to earn an Olympic medal in the 5,000-meter event, but she is no stranger to this race on the very same ice. In 2013, Wust earned a silver medal in this event in the World Single Distance Championships that were held in Sochi.
Even though she is stronger in the shorter races, there is no denying Wust's current hot streak. She will certainly be one of the favorites to reach the podium on Wednesday.
If Wust is to earn another medal, she must first find a way to overtake the reigning Olympic champion, Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic.
Sablikova earned the gold medal in the ladies' 5,000-meter event in Vancouver's 2010 Olympic Games. That was just one addition to her impressive resume.
She also has four gold medals in the World Championships and one in the Winter Universiade as well—that's only counting her record in the 5,000-meter event.
Earlier in the Winter Games, Sablikova announced that she would be pulling out of the ladies' 1,500-meter event. Ria Novosti gathered this statement from Czech team spokesman Alexandr Kliment, "She will not compete in the 1,500 meters because she wants to prevent herself from getting injured before the 5,000 meters. She wants to rest and relax."
That may just give her another edge on her competition.
Making this event even more dramatic is the fact that Wust and Sablikova are slated to skate head-to-head in the seventh of eight pairs in the event. These two athletes could push each other to a new level of excellence.
Other noteworthy athletes in this competition are Germany's Claudia Pechstein—the 41-year-old athlete who previously dominated in this event and still has plenty left in the tank—and Russia's Olga Graf—utilizing home-ice advantage in an attempt to claim her second medal of the 2014 Olympic Games.
There is plenty of top-notch talent in this event, and narrowing the field down to a final three is a difficult process. However, Sablikova appears to be in prime shape after having rested earlier in the games. Wust is riding a great hot streak and should be expected to continue that trend. Graf will have the backing of her country in the Adler Arena which should help her confidence.
The odd woman out here is Pechstein. She is still performing admirably at the age of 41; however, it appears that she will be overtaken by the younger competitors. A fourth-place finish is still very respectable here.
Gold Medal: Martina Sablikova, Czech Republic
Silver Medal: Ireen Wust, Netherlands
Bronze Medal: Olga Graf, Russia