The tension between Mass Start aces Irene Schouten (NED) and Ivanie Blondin (CAN) has eased over the years, but on the ice they're still fierce rivals. After the Canadian beat her Dutch nemesis in the final sprint last week in Minsk, the order was reversed in the second leg of the ISU World Cup Speed Skating in Tomaszów Mazowiecki on Sunday. In the 1500m Ireen Wüst (NED) retained her first place in the World Cup classification with a second consecutive win and a track record.
Ireen Wüst (NED) on her way to her second successive 1500m World Cup gold medal 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Wüst dominates in 1500m
Last season Wüst came second when Miho Takagi (JPN) won the 1500m at the World Cup in Tomaszów Mazowiecki, setting a track record in 1:57.32. This year they swapped roles. Reigning Olympic and world champion Wüst took another gold medal and track record in 1:56.627, after her win in Minsk last week.
"I'm very happy," Wüst said. "It was a very tough race, which you can tell by looking at the last lap, but I was able to hold on to my pace. It was relaxed fast."
Wüst left pair-mate Evgenia Lalenkova (RUS) 0.65 seconds behind, but the 29-year-old Russian was very happy too. "This is my first individual medal in a World Cup," she said. "Last year I was fourth one or two times and last week I finished fourth too, so now that I'm finally third, I'm very happy.
"Skating versus Wüst was good for me, because I can go fast and she helped me going fast from the start so she was a very good pace-maker for me."
Ireen Wüst (NED) is flanked by Japan's Miho Takagi, left, and Evgenia Lalenkova (RUS) 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Takagi skated immediately after Wüst had taken her track record, but she was not able to reclaim it. Heading into the final lap, the 25-year-old Japanese still had a 0.05 advantage over Wüst, but the last circuit proved too much. With 1:57.17, Takagi took second place, but she was happy too.
"Of course coming first is better, but last week I was sixth so today second is better,” she said. “I'm on the way up. The speed is not bad, but I have to work on that last lap."
ISU World Cup Speed Skating Standings 1500m Ladies
Respectful rivals in Mass Start
The happiness extended to the ladies’ Mass Start. The bunch stayed together in the 16-lap race so it all came down to a final-lap sprint in which Schouten and Blondin were the ones to beat again.
This time out, Schouten came from behind Blondin's back, swerving past her rival on the outside in the final corner. But Blondin did not give in and the two were level heading into the home straight. Eventually Schouten pipped Blondin to the line. Olympic Mass Start champion Nana Takagi (JPN) finished third.
"This was by the book," Schouten said. "I could come from behind and I could get past her [Blondin]. She still managed to get level, and then it's a one-on-one on the final straight. To win that one is super."
Blondin congratulated Schouten and the two were all smiles afterwards.
Mass Start rivals Irene Schouten (NED), left, and Ivanie Blondin (CAN) share a joke at Arena Lodowa 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
"I'm not disappointed with second,” the Canadian said. “I like Schouten, we're so competitive. In the past it was a negative competitive, but now it's positive. We both accepted that we are rivals. I started joking around with her a little and she gave it back to me and that lightened the mood. Also, me having Remmelt [Eldering, a Dutchman] as my coach and him always telling me that Schouten is not that bad of a girl and that I should really go for a beer with her, which hasn't happened yet, but it's a nice environment to compete in. I'm happy for her and I feel that she was really happy for me last week."
Schouten, 27, agreed with 29-year-old Blondin: "Our rivalry has changed. Five years ago we were younger and now we're enjoying it better. We are both fair in the race and that's something you cannot say about everyone in the field. On the ice we are rivals but off the ice we're OK. We respect each other. It’s the same with the Italian (Francesca Lollobrigida, who came eighth in Tomaszów Mazowiecki). On the track we are rivals, but off the track she's just a nice girl."
ISU World Cup Speed Skating Standings Mass Start Ladies
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