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BEIJING — Speed skater Ireen Wust of the Netherlands made history at the Beijing Olympics on Monday when she claimed her sixth career gold medal, making her the first Olympian to win gold at five different editions of the Winter Games.
The 35-year-old swept round the Beijing oval to retain her title in the 1,500 meters by just under half a second.
"I always said I have five children, but now I have to say it's like you have six children and you have to pick which one is most beautiful. They all mean a lot to me," she said of her gold medals after her race at the Olympic Speed Skating Oval.
Wust has had her fair share of ups and downs at the Winter Games over 16 years and called her Beijing appearance "emotional".
One of the biggest setbacks was the death of her close friend, teammate and neighbour Paulien van Deutekom from lung cancer three years ago at the age of 37.
"I was crying because I miss my biggest friend. ... She died three years ago," said Wust, who used to call van Deutekom before and after her races.
"A lot of things happened to me during these last 16 years. So this one is more emotional I guess. You overcome so many things, and the first time is the easiest one to win, winning for the fifth time is the hardest one to win."
With her record streak of gold medals, fans might be hoping that she may reverse her decision to retire from the sport this year. But the success of her sixth Olympics has not swayed her.
"I always say age is just a number, but I'm 35 and I really want to have children. So at one point you have to quit," she said.
"I'm really enjoying the journey and really enjoying my last year. Knowing that it's the last one means I'm enjoying it even more. It was a decision I made before this year, and I'm happy about it. I'm happy that I can quit on my highest level."
Wust will also skate in the women's 1000 meters next Thursday.