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Olga Graf Wins Russia's First Sochi Medal As Ireen Wust Gives Dutch Another Speedskating Gold

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OLGA GRAF
Russia's Olga Graf celebrates after competing to win the bronze medal in the Women's Speed Skating 3000m at the Adler Arena during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 9, 2014. Dutch speed skater Ireen Wust powered to victory in the women's 3,000m on Sunday, stealing gold from defending Olympic champion Martina Sablikova. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images) | JUNG YEON-JE via Getty Images
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SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Ireen Wust made the Netherlands 2-for-2 at the Olympic speedskating oval.

Wust won the women's 3,000 meters Sunday, knocking off defending Olympic champion Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic. Skating in the next-to-last pairing, Wust won with a time of 4 minutes, 0.34 seconds.

Sablikova settled for the silver in 4:01.95, clapping for her rival after Wust crossed the line.

The bronze went to Olga Graf, who gave Russia its first medal of the Winter Games in 4:03.47 and sent the crowd at Adler Arena into a frenzy.

Six-time Olympian Claudia Pechstein was looking to win her 10th Olympic medal, but the 41-year-old German faded badly over the final laps and missed the podium. She was fourth in 4:05.26.

The king and queen of the Netherlands were again in the crowd, just as they were the day before when Sven Kramer took gold in the men's 5,000. The royal couple saw another winning performance by their speedskating-mad nation.

The Dutch have now captured 29 Olympic golds, pulling even with the United States for the most victories in the sport.

Wust kept holding up three fingers — the nails painted red, white and blue to symbolize the Dutch flag — after taking the third gold medal of her Olympic career. She even went sliding on her rear to celebrate, the only time she stumbled all day.

The 27-year-old Wust has won gold at three straight Olympics, also capturing the 1,500 at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

"This is three in a row," she said. "This is great."

Wust came into Sochi as the skater to beat after taking the European allround title last month. She lived up to the billing, becoming the most decorated Dutch female Winter Olympian with three golds and a silver.

The other two medalists also celebrated wildly. Sablikova, who won gold in both the 3,000 and 5,000 at the Vancouver Games, didn't seem to mind giving back one of her titles to Wust. The Dutch skater took gold in the 3,000 at the 2006 Turin Games, Sablikova claimed the victory four years ago, and now it's Wust on top again.

"Wust was simply very fast today and nobody could fight her," Sablikova said.

No one was more thrilled than Graf, who glided around the rink on one skate like she was flying and nearly had an embarrassing moment when she began unzipping her skin-tight suit in the ecstasy of the moment — then zipped it back up quickly when she realized there was nothing on underneath.

Pechstein looked like a skater approaching her 42nd birthday, unable to channel her anger over missing the Vancouver Games into a medal-winning performance. She was suspended over abnormal blood levels, even though she had never failed a doping test and steadfastly denied any wrongdoing.

She'll have another chance for that 10th medal in the 5,000.

"Finishing fourth at 41, that isn't that bad," Pechstein said. "The ice quality was tough but it was the same for everyone. I didn't feel as old as I am. I'm feeling good about the 5k. I can still get my medal there."

Jilleanne Rookard of Woodhaven, Mich., who skated in the pairing with Graf, was the highest-finishing American. She took 10th out of 28 skaters in 4:10.02. Anna Ringsred of Duluth, Minn., was 27th.

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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