On January 5-7 the Moscow Region Speed Skating Centre in Kolomna will host the ISU European Speed Skating Single Distances Championships 2018. It is the first ever European Single Distance Championships in speed skating history. Previously there were only European Allround and European Sprint Championships. From 2017 onwards, the Allround and Sprint Championships are held only in odd years, and starting in 2018 the European Singe Distance Championships will be held in even years.
For many skaters the Kolomna Championships will be a try-out for the Olympic Winter Games next month in PyeongChang. For the ones who did not qualify for the Olympics, the European Championships provide an opportunity to still win a major title this season.
Koen Verwey NED
Exciting middle distance battle between Verwey and Yuskov
Michel Mulder (NED) will try to obliterate the disappointment of not being able to defend his Olympic 500m title, after he failed to qualify at the Dutch Olympic trials in December. He will face tough competition from twin brother Ronald Mulder, who did grab a ticket for PyeongChang.
Pavel Kulizhnikov (RUS) will enter the competition on home ice as one of the main favourites in the 500m. The world record holder has not been as dominant as in previous seasons, because he was hampered by a groin injury. If he’s fully fit, Kulizhnikov is still one of the fastest men on the ice.
The men’s sprinting field is very competitive, not only in the 500m, but also in the 1000m. In the latter event the short distance specialists will face competition form middle distance skaters like Denis Yuskov (RUS), Koen Verweij (NED) and Thomas Krol (NED).
Verweij and Yuskov, who train together with Russian national coach Kosta Poltavets, will also be the main contenders in the 1500m. Yuskov skated a world record (1:41.02) at the Salt Lake City World Cup in December, with Verweij coming second in a personal best of 1:41.63.
With the 10,000m not being part of the Kolomna programme, the 5000m is the longest distance in the men’s tournament. The title is up for grabs, while Dutch favorite Sven Kramer chose to skip Kolomna in preparation for the Olympics.
Jan Blokhuijsen (NED) is the man to watch, but compatriot Simon Schouten is in blistering form after having won the Dutch marathon title in Utrecht last week. Italy’s Nicola Tumolero, currently fourth in the World Cup ranking, might challenge the Dutchmen.
Karolina Erbanova CZE
Many chances for home ladies
In the ladies’ tournament the home nation have strong contenders both in the short and in the longer distances. In absence of Japan’s Nao Kodaira and Korea’s Sang-Hwa Lee, Russian sprinters Olga Fatkulina and Angelina Golikova will face competition form last season’s inaugural European sprint champion Karolina Erbanova (CZE) and Austrian Vanessa Herzog.
In the 1000m and the 1500m the field is even more competitive. Yekaterina Shikhova (RUS) and Yuliya Skokova (RUS) will chase home success. Dutch Marrit Leenstra and Lotte van Beek, who both qualified for the Olympic Games, will not be easy to beat.
In the 3000m Dutch Annouk van der Weijden and 21-year-old prodigy Esmee Visser, who both qualified for PyeongChang, will challenge Russian World Cup leader Natalia Voronina. Olga Graf (RUS) will also be present, but the Sochi Olympic bronze medallist has not been at the top of her game this season mostly competing in B-division races at World Cup events.
Ladies Team Pursuit POL
Whereas all classic single distance events will take place on Friday and Saturday, the Sunday is reserved for the team events and the Mass Start in Kolomna.
Based on the World Cup rankings, Germany, the Netherlands and Poland are favorite for the ladies’ Team Pursuit event. Norway, Italy and the Netherlands should be expected to be the most competitive teams in the men’s Team Pursuit.
The Russian ladies’ are favoutite to take gold in the Team Sprint event, having won two out of three World Cup races this season. Norway came second three times.
In the Men’s Team Sprint Norway and Russia are favorites too. In the World Cup ranking Norway is second sbehind Canada and Russia third.
Italy is strong in the men’s and the ladies’ Mass Start events. Both Andrea Giovannini and Francesca Lollobrigida took a World Cup victory this season.