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Smeding relishes ‘amazing feeling’ on Olympic debut

As Ellia Smeding raced around the 400m National Speed Skating Oval in Beijing she ended a 42 year wait for a female long track speed skater to represent Team GB at a Winter Olympics.

Her time of 2:01:09 left her in 27th place and officially an Olympian, a feeling she later modestly described as being “really cool”.

For those fans allowed in the stands the nerves that she later admitted to feeling were not apparent. After the race she said: “It's quite overwhelming to be honest, to be in such a massive, beautiful oval knowing you're at the start line at the Olympic Games.

"It was definitely nerve-wracking - all the emotions, but really cool to be able to call myself an Olympian now."

She was in the first pair to skate the 1500m which was later won by Ireen Wust of Netherlands with an Olympic record time. Having to sit through an extravagant light show before taking the ice can’t have helped calm those nerves.

Photos credit of TeamGB/David Pearce

The 23-year-old added: "For my first race, it was fine. You realise it's something you've dreamt about for so many years when you're on the start line, and you're like 'wow', but you also need to keep your cool and it's about finding a balance there."

She will be back in for the 1000m, but for now is just trying to embrace the felling of being the first female Team GB long track skater since 1980, an achievement she hopes will encourage more people into the sport.

“I'm really trying to soak up that feeling. I really wanted to put down a good race, to make the country proud and show them what long track is.

"I'm hoping to build on this in the 1000m in ten days' time and put down an even better performance.

"It would be really special to be able to create more activity within long track and I hope after this Olympics, the sport grows even more and we can use it as a platform for people coming up.”

Cornelius Kersten, Smeding’s boyfriend and business partner skates in his first distance, the men’s 1500m tomorrow at 10:30.

If you would like to learn more about long track speed skating or would like to find out where your local ice rink is head to the British Ice Skating website.

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