The race featured three Olympic Champions at this distance: Sáblíková of 2010, Wüst of 2006, and Claudia Pechstein of 2002. Pechstein, also the Olympic record holder, finished fourth. Stephanie Beckert, the silver medalist of the 2010 Winter Olympics, finished 17th.
Kim Bo-reum in the third pair took an early lead, and her result was subsequently improved by Yuliya Skokova in the 6th pair, Annouk van der Weijden in the 8th pair, and Olga Graf in the 10th pair. Pechstein in the 11th pair was racing better than the Graf's pace for most of the distance, but in the end lost to the Graf's time. In the next two pairs, first Sáblíková and then Wüst took the lead, each of them beating a track record, pushing Pechstein out of the medals. In the last pair, Antoinette de Jong finished seventh, leaving Graf as a surprise medal winner and the first medal winner for Russia at the 2014 Olympics. None of the athletes posted time better than 4 minutes.
A total of twenty-eight speed skaters could qualify for this distance, with a maximum of three skaters per country. The top 16 of the 2013–14 ISU Speed Skating World Cup – Women's 3000 and 5000 metres standings after the fourth World Cup race in Berlin secured a spot for their country. Then the additional 12 spots were awarded based on a time ranking of all times skated in the World Cup 3000 metres. A reserve list was also made.
Prior to this competition, the existing world and Olympic records were as follows.
At the 2013 World Single Distance Speed Skating Championships the track record was set by Ireen Wüst at 4:02.43.