CALGARY, FEB. 28 -- The Dutch were out in force at the speed skating oval again tonight with songs, flags, chants and a big banner reading, "Yvonne 2, GDR 0."
They came to cheer and Yvonne van Gennip, the newest and most unexpected sensation of the XV Winter Olympics, gave them plenty to shout about on the last day of the Games.
The fresh-faced, 23-year-old from Haarlem smashed the world's record in the first 5,000-meter women's Olympic event ever, completing a sweep of everything she entered and a devastating thrashing of the favored East Germans in all long-distance women's events.
The Dutch partisans were prepared. Van Gennip had barely crossed the line to capture her third gold medal, sporting a dazzling smile, when the banner was updated with a bright red numeral: "Yvonne 3, GDR 0."
For the third straight time against van Gennip, the East Germans had to be satisfied with silver and bronze, Andrea Ehrig taking second place in 7 minutes 17.12 seconds and Gabi Zange third in 7:21.61.
The winner's remarkable time of 7:14.13 clipped more than six seconds off the world mark, 7:20.36, which she herself set in Heerenveen, Netherlands, last year.
But even though van Gennip was a world-record holder coming in, her successes here were anything but anticipated. She had an operation in December after a too-tight skate lace cut into her right foot and the injury became infected.
She quit skating for over two weeks, briefly considered washing out the season altogether, and was fit to compete in only three events before the Olympics began.
She came here, she said tonight, hoping for a bronze medal or two, and suddenly found herself rested and in the best condition of her life. "When you win," she said, "you get stronger."
On Tuesday she beat Ehrig in the 3,000 meters for her first gold, which she said was her hardest race. On Saturday she topped East German Karin Enke-Kania, the most successful Olympic woman speed skater ever, for the 1,500-meter prize and today she got the best of Ehrig again.
Her medal tally thus puts her in a league alone with Finnish ski-jumping superstar Matti Nykanen, the only other winner of three golds here.
The chestnut-haired, 5-foot-5 student said she found herself doing something tonight she'd never done before -- thinking on the ice.
"I heard everything going on," she said, from the track announcer's call of her times to the robust cheers of her countrymen. "Normally I don't think. But this time I was thinking and going fast, and it was very strange."
The race itself was a challenge. Van Gennip was in the fifth pair to start, and Ehrig already had bettered the world mark by 3.2 seconds before the Dutchwoman answered the gun.
But van Gennip said she wasn't worried. "I was glad after I saw Andrea's time. I thought I could beat it."
Van Gennip got off to a fast start, turning the first 200 meters in 20.21 seconds, fastest of the night. It was a change in strategy, she said, because normally she starts slowly.
She fell behind Ehrig's world-record pace only once after that, and quickly made the time back up. With three laps to go she was a full two seconds ahead of the pace, and had a three-second edge as the bell for the final lap was rung.
It was then that she broke out her dazzling smile: "I knew then that I could have three gold medals."