KEARNS -- Five-time Olympic champion Claudia Pechstein celebrated her long-awaited comeback from a two-year doping ban with a giant hug from her new boyfriend.
"New love, new life, everything," Pechstein said after winning the 5,000-meter "B" race Friday morning at a World Cup speedskating event at the Utah Olympic Oval.
Her times weren't as fast as Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic, who covered 5,000 meters at the Utah Olympic Oval in 6 minutes, 42.66 seconds in the afternoon "A" races to win gold and break her own world record of 6:45.61 set in the 2007 world championships.
But Pechstein was fast enough (6:51.62) to qualify for the World Cup finals in The Netherlands in two weeks and the world championships in Germany in mid-March.
Even top U.S. finisher Jilleanne Rookard (7th, 7:01.41) admitted Pechstein will be a force down the road after skating a blazing time that saw her lap a fellow racer and nearly be disqualified in the process.
Whether Pechstein can regain her reputation remains to be seen.
"She had a very, very famous career," said Germany team leader Helge Jasch. "She won everything. If you saw what happened to her, then your whole success is worth nothing anymore."
Pechstein always has denied doping, arguing that a hereditary anomaly was responsible for the abnormal blood levels that led to her ban from the International Skating Union two years ago.
She skated once in December 2009 while appealing that ban but ultimately lost. The ban ended earlier this month and a Feb. 12 international race earned her a spot in the "B" races in Utah -- for those who do not have enough World Cup points to compete for medals.
"My goal was to race under 7 minutes and I beat it and I'm very happy about it," Pechstein said. "It's a good start in my comeback. I have good memories here."
Pechstein won two gold medals in the 2002 Winter Olympics, setting records in both the 3,000 and 5,000.
As thrilling as that was, her exile from the sport was just as dramatic.
"It was crazy. It's like a movie, a bad movie," she said.
Pechstein's long-term goal is to compete in the Sochi Olympics in 2014. Her next race is today, competing again in the World Cup "B" races in the 5,000 meters.
Stephanie Beckert of Germany was second in 6:47.03 and Eriko Ishino of Japan took bronze in 6:55.07.
Trevor Marsicano won gold in the men's 1,500, using a strong finish to clock 1:43.35 and edge fellow American Shani Davis by 0.03 seconds.
Mark Tuitert of Netherlands was third in 1:43.54.
Marsicano got help from Tuitert as the two came into the final corner even. Davis, meanwhile, was practically racing against himself during the next heat, as distance specialist Ivan Skobrev of Russia was far behind and finished 18th.
"I pushed through that last corner," Marsicano said. "We were so close I said I gotta give it everything. The top 5 or 6 are so close, on any given day it could flip-flop. I was a little surprised it held up, but at the same time I was confident since I had such a good, strong finish."
Davis said he's usually strong enough to hold on by himself.
"But I've been skating a lot of races and just didn't have it like the last 50 meters. But it's OK because a younger teammate of mine, Trevor, came through and grabbed a medal for us. It's good for us because it's going to push our morale and we're going to train really hard and try to clean up for the rest of the season."