Japan took gold and silver in the men's 500m with Tatsuya Shinhama and Yuma Murakami only 0.002 seconds apart at the top of the ranking at the ISU World Cup Speed Skating in Tomaszów Mazowiecki on Sunday. Canada's Laurent Dubreuil (CAN) came third to win his first individual World Cup medal in two years, and the Netherlands won the men's Team Pursuit, confidently beating silver medalists Japan.
Tatsuya Shinhama (JPN) on his way to victory in the men's 500m at Arena Lodowa 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Japanese sprinters show resilience
Shinhama and Murakami both completed the 500m in 34.73, with Shinhama taking the gold just two thousandths ahead of his compatriot. The Japanese sprinters thus made amends for a disappointing 11th place in the Team Sprint on Friday.
Shinhama said: "Our coaching staff had a strong word with us [after Friday's Team Sprint] so the atmosphere in the team was tense. Winning the 500m was the only thing we could do and I was trying to win, no matter how.
"I made a bit of a mistake at the first corner, so my race wasn't great, but I'm on the top of the podium and that's all that mattered."
Before the Japanese sprinters took to the ice, Dubreuil had been the only one to break the 35-second-barrier in Tomaszów, stopping the clock at 34.97. With Jun-Ho Kim (KOR) finishing in 34.99, only four skaters managed to stay under 35 seconds on Sunday.
Gold medalist Tatsuya Shinhama celebrates with compatriot Yuma Murakami, left, and Laurent Dubreuil (CAN) 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Dubreuil was excited to be back on the individual podium after his 500m gold in Heerenveen in November 2017. He said: "It's amazing. We win medals in the Team Sprint, but the reason I fell in love with speed skating is because of the individual races, so to be two years without a podium is too long.
"I was in the B group last week, and then to win a medal in my first race [in the A Division], that's a great start. It was my objective to win a medal in one of the first four World Cups, so that's already done. Obviously I want to repeat that race and get on the podium more frequently. I'm really looking forward to skating again in two weeks [at the World Cup in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan on 6-8 December]."
ISU World Cup Speed Skating Standings 500m Men
New strategy pays off for Netherlands
World champions the Netherlands started confidently in the first World Cup Team Pursuit race of the season. Patrick Roest (NED), Douwe de Vries (NED) and Marcel Bosker (NED) faced Japan, who were able to keep up for five laps. While the Dutch managed to maintain the same pace throughout the eight circuits, Seitaro Ichinohe (JPN), Riku Tsuchiya (JPN) and Shane Williamson (JPN) tired in the final three laps.
The Netherlands' new strategy in the Team Pursuit involved taking more frequent turns at the front of the group 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
It was a new strategy that paid off, the Orange squad explained, after they took turns at the front every lap instead of changing after every 600m. Roest said: "We did short stints at the front because it's tough ice. You'd say it’s slower because the change-ups cost time, but on a heavy track like this it's better because you don't blow yourself up."
Veteran skater De Vries, who won his career 10th World Cup gold in the Team Pursuit, agreed: "We already discussed this idea during the summer. Marcel [Bosker] suggested to do it here and I totally agreed. I've never seen a good team do it like this [in the Team Pursuit], but it went very well."
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