Viktor Mushtakov (RUS) won the first individual World Cup gold medal of his career to lead a Russian one-two with compatriot Ruslan Murashov in the men's 500m at the third leg of the ISU Speed Skating World Cup in Nur-Sultan on Friday. The Netherlands won their third consecutive Team Sprint with yet another different line-up.
Russian double in 500m
World record holder Pavel Kulizhnikov (RUS) had decided not to start, having missed the first two World Cups in Minsk and Tomaszów Mazowiecki already. World Cup leader Tatsuya Shinhama (JPN) was absent too, so all eyes were on Jun-Ho Kim (KOR), who had won the first World Cup race of the season.
Viktor Mushtakov (RUS) on his way to his first World Cup victory in the 500m in Nur-Sultan 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Kim was paired with Mushtakov and couldn't keep up with the Russian, who opened 0.03 faster and kept on increasing his lead in the full lap. Mushtakov clocked 34.63, and Kim finished in 34.86 for fifth place, enough to take a clear lead in the World Cup ranking.
Murashov entered the rink straight after his compatriot and opened 0.04 faster in 9.59. Despite having the draft advantage in the back-stretch coming from the outer lane, he couldn't match Mushtakov's blistering 25.03 full lap, clocking 34.64 for silver.
Alex Boisvert-Lacroix (CAN) had the fastest opener of the field in 9.55, but eventually finished in 34.73 to take bronze. It was his first World Cup medal since a third place in Erfurt in November 2018. "I'm happy to be back on the podium," the Canadian said.
"I had a lower-back injury last year, that kept me off the podium and even out of the international circuit for a while. I did a lot of rehab this summer.
Mushtakov (RUS) is flanked by compatriot Ruslan Murashov, left, and Alex Boisvert-Lacroix (CAN) 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
"I had the perfect pair, up against the biggest guy in the field (Lennart Velema, NED). My plan was clear. I had to do a really good start and chase on the back-stretch and I had the best start of the field so my plan was well executed. I can still improve my full lap, I was running a bit (instead of skating), but in general it was a good race."
ISU World Cup Speed Skating Standings 500m Men
Dutch win 'bowling contest'
The men’s Team Sprint did not go well for Canada when their third man David La Rue crashed after touching the blade of second in line Laurent Dubreuil. Start skater Boisvert-Lacroix said: "It's unfortunate, because we had a chance to be back on the podium (after two bronze medals earlier this season), but these things happen. We'll be back in Nagano for sure (at the fourth leg of the World Cup next week)."
Ronald Mulder, Kai Verbij and Thomas Krol won the Netherlands' third successive men's Team Sprint 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Canada were not the only team to crash out of the race, with Russia, Germany and China all taking a tumble. "This looked more like a bowling contest than a speed skating race," said Ronald Mulder (NED). The Dutch starting skater led his team to their third gold medal of the season, this time with Kai Verbij and Thomas Krol as second and third skaters.
Mulder is the only one to have skated in all three victories for the Dutch. "It's nice to be part of the winning team every time," he said. "But I still have a bitter taste in my mouth after the 500m." Mulder finished 18th in the individual sprint on Friday. "Of course, we only got here [Nur-Sultan] late and we've kept on training instead of taking rest for competition, but I don't like excuses. I've skated three World Cup races this season and those were all bad."
The Dutchman will get another chance in Nagano next week. "According to our training program, I should be better next week," he said. Mulder will start tapering towards the Dutch national Single Distance Championships, which are held as trials for the World Championships in February.
He said: "I still want to skate all the World Cups, because I think that's important too.
"But I prefer the classic distances. I'd rather have two 500m races in a World Cup weekend than more team events."
Team Sprint winners the Netherlands reap their rewards with Norway, left, and Switzerland 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Norway and Switzerand finished second and third in the Team Sprint in Nur-Sultan, which brought a hesitant smile back to Håvard Lorentzen's face. He said: "The Norwegian team has not delivered this year and people don't really understand why, me neither. I feel OK, it's weird and frustrating. We're searching for that good feeling. After the 500m today we were all a bit down, but our Team Sprint was OK."
ISU World Cup Speed Skating Standings Team Sprint Men
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