German speed skater Claudia Pechstein smiled wide, out of breath, as she crossed the finish line of the women’s 3000 meter race on Feb. 5.
Pechstein, a long-time speed skater, looked ecstatic at her finish – which was dead last. She turns 50-years-old the month of the 2022 Beijing Olympics – her eighth.
“I was not too fast, but I smiled [after crossing the finish line] because today I got my goal to race in my eighth Olympic Games,” she told reporters.
There is an old adage: “Age is just a number.” It seems at these Winter Games, that’s never been more true.
Pechstein didn’t break speed records on Feb. 5, but she did make history as the oldest female athlete to compete at the Winter Games. She tied the record for appearances by Winter Olympians – also held by Japanese ski jumper Noriaki Kasai.
She is also the second-oldest Olympic speed skater, behind Great Britain’s Albert Tebbit, who competed at age 52 in 1924.
Claudia Pechstein became the oldest female Winter Olympian when she raced in the 3,000m speed skating at the 2022 Winter Olympics on Saturday.
Already the first woman to win five consecutive medals at the Winter Games, the 49-year-old Pechstein carried Germany’s flag at Friday’s opening ceremony, but finished 20th and last in her event.
Although she finished more than 20 seconds behind Dutch gold medalist Irene Schouten — who also took her Olympic record — Pechstein raised her arms and looked relieved as she crossed the finishing line.
“The result of today was not so important, it was just to race and to be here. I am super proud,” Pechstein said.
The German, who turns 50 two days after the Games end, has also equaled the record for appearing at the highest number of Winter Olympics. This is her eighth Games, tying her with Japanese ski jumper Noriaki Kasai, who last competed at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.
“I was not too fast but I smiled because today I got my goal to race in my eighth Olympic Games. This was important for me,” Pechstein told reporters.
Pechstein missed the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games after being banned for two years by the International Skating Union for abnormal blood levels, which they said indicated doping.
The record for oldest female Winter Olympian was previously held by Anne Abernathy, a luger from the U.S. Virgin Islands, who was 48 when she competed at Salt Lake City in 2002.