Sjinkie Knegt (NED) chose the perfect moment to win his first Audi ISU World Cup 1000m gold medal.
The 28-year-old drove the crowd crazy in Dordrecht as he timed his sprint finish to perfection, pushing long-time leader Samuel Girard (CAN) into the silver-medal position with the 2017 ISU 1000m world champion, Seo Yi Ra (KOR), taking bronze.
“I felt good the whole time and I always felt I could pass him (Girard),” Knegt said, adding, “But everything has to be done at the right moment.”
And what a moment he chose. As the skaters rounded the bend with less than two laps to go, the 1500m world record holder jumped out from behind the Canadian and powered to a passionately acclaimed triumph.
“It’s the best experience racing in front of this crowd. I really enjoyed it,” Knegt said of competing in an arena in which much of the crowd were wearing masks of his face. “I saw it, it was super funny.”
In a statement that will no doubt delight those fans even more with the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games looming, Knegt revealed that there is plenty more to come from him.
“I didn’t have quick acceleration this weekend. I can definitely do much better. It will come with more racing,” he said.
Girard, the Dordrecht 500m champion, was gracious in defeat.
“I didn’t plan to be in front the whole time,” he said. “Knegt was pretty fast, he did a great job.” The Canadian also revealed he savoured the charged atmosphere, taking it as an opportunity to prepare for things ahead.
“It was pretty cool. We have to get used to this kind of support with the Olympics coming up in Korea. You have to use it and get a boost from it,” he said.
Meanwhile, world champion Seo seemed unruffled by his failure to win gold in either of the opening Audi ISU World Cup events.
“I feel good, I have been training well and I am really focused,” he said.
Three-time Olympic champion Charles Hamelin (CAN) won the B Final, with Shaoang Liu (HUN) second and the USA’s John-Henry Krueger third.