|Less fancied Zhang Hong claimed China's first ever Olympic speed skating title on Thursday, winning the women's 1,000m with a large margin.(Xinhua Photo)
SOCHI, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) -- Less fancied Zhang Hong claimed China's first ever Olympic speed skating title on Thursday, winning the women's 1,000m with a large margin.
The 25-year-old Olympic debutante, who clocked one minute 14.02 seconds in the seventh pair, had to wait for 22 more skaters to finish the race before knowing she had made history.
After missing out on a 500m medal on Tuesday, Zhang took the country's only second gold in Sochi, beating Dutch triple gold medalist Ireen Wust by a stunning 0.67 seconds.
Another Dutchwoman Margot Boer took bronze in 1:14.90.
Zhang raced against Christine Nesbitt of Canada and overpowered the defending champion with a superb last lap that timed 28.99 seconds.
Then she sat down in the middle of the oval for an agonizing one-hour wait. "I don't think anybody could feel what I felt while waiting," she said.
Zhang's best 1,000m World Cup result this season was a sixth, but she showed improving form by finishing second in the world sprint championships in the Japanese city of Nagano on Jan. 19.
"China has been waiting so long for this breakthrough," said Zhang's coach Feng Qingbo.
China won its first Olympic speed skating medal in 1992 when Ye Qiaobo finished runner-up over both 1,000m and 500m. But the gold had never come until the Sochi Games.
"We have been waiting for this gold medal for 22 years," said Zhang. "I can't believe I have won it. During and before the race, I just wanted to beat myself."
Earlier on Thursday, Chinese short track speed skater Li Jianrou won China's first gold in Sochi.
"While dining with short trackers in the Olympic village yesterday, I told them to win a gold medal and bring us good luck," said Zhang.
Zhang had already had a return plane ticket bought for Friday. "Now I will have to change the flight."