Two memorable firsts brought the curtain down on the men's competition at the ISU World Cup Speed Skating in Nur-Sultan on Sunday. In the 1500m Ning Zhongyan (CHN) seized his career first World Cup win, before Andrea Giovannini, Michele Malfatti and Nicola Tumolero (ITA) gabbed their first Team Pursuit gold – and Italy's first since their only other triumph in 2005.
Youngster upsets the favorites
After Thomas Krol (NED) had narrowly beaten Kjeld Nuis (NED) in the 1000m on Saturday, another two-horse race was expected in Sunday’s mile. But the forecasts proved unfounded when Nuis did not have it his own way in the third last pairing. The Dutchman started in the inner lane versus Ning and built a 0.63 advantage over the 20-year-old Chinese prodigy at the 700m split. He was not able to maintain his pace, however.
Men's 1500m gold medalist Zhongyan Ning (CHN) is flanked by Netherlands' Patrick Roest (left) and Kjeld Nuis 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
"I was behind him on the back-stretch (after 800m)," Nuis said. "I just was not able to fight to pass him fast heading into that inner corner. He managed to keep me in sight and then he had that final back-stretch to fully focus on me."
Ning passed Nuis in the final inner corner and kept him at bay on the final straight to finish in a track record time of 1:44.91. Nuis crossed the line 0.29 seconds later.
In the penultimate pairing Saturday's 10,000m winner Patrick Roest (NED) showed that he had recovered well from his exhausting effort the night before. Starting more cautiously than his team-mate Nuis, he paced his race very well to finish in 1:45.08 for second place.
"That 10,000m was still in my legs, that's why my opener was a bit cautious, but I was able to keep my lap times low," he said with satisfaction.
"I'm glad I've caught up with the other guys (Krol and Nuis) in the 1500m, because that had not been the case this season just yet."
Krol, starting in the final race, had to settle for fourth place in 1:45.50. He remains second in the World Cup ranking, behind Nuis and just ahead of Ning.
Nuis and Roest were not surprised by Ning's first gold medal.
"it definitely doesn't come as a surprise," Nuis said. "I think he disappointed in the 1000m yesterday (when Ning finished 18th). I know what he's capable of."
Roest agreed: "He's has already shown that he can skate a very fast 1000m and 1500m, as well as a fast final lap in the Team Sprint."
ISU World Cup Speed Skating Standings 1500m Men
Italy en route to their first men's Team Pursuit gold in the World Cup since 2005 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Teamwork works for Azzurri
Italy definitely surprised themselves in winning the Team Pursuit. The Azzurri finished their eight laps in 3:46.31 to keep silver medalists Canada 1.34 behind. Russia took bronze in 3:48.26.
"I can't remember the last time when Italy won a World Cup Team Pursuit. That must have been with Enrico Fabris?" said Giovannini, who knows his classics well. Fabris anchored Stefano Donagrandi and Ippolito Sanfratello to the only previous Italian World Cup win in the Team Pursuit in Torino in 2005.
The gold in Nur-Sultan had not come easy, because Tumolero had overcome an upset stomach on Saturday. "That's why we did not expect this at all," he explained.
The Italians were very happy to have qualified for the World Championships and declared their love for the Team Pursuit.
Giovannini explained: 'It’s the most important race, because you share the satisfaction with the team. For me that's such a beautiful sensation."
Gold medalists Italy celebrate with the teams of Canada and Russia at the Alau Ice Palace 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Team bonding is Italy's strength, Tumolero said.
"We grew up together. (The team) is like a family to us. We are used to training together every day, not like for example the Dutch who train separately more often. We are more used to skating behind each other."
Canada also had an upset stomach to overcome. Graeme Fish, who took his first World Cup medal with bronze in the 10,000m on Saturday, was not able to start and Tyson Langelaar was his last-minute replacement, skating his first ever Team Pursuit race in the World Cup.
"That's off to a good start," Langelaar smiled with the silver medal hanging on his neck. The 20-year-old was happy, but also eager to learn and improve. "I was thrown in and I did what I could. Next week (at the World Cup in Nagano) should be a lot better. I think we can clean it up a bit."
ISU World Cup Speed Skating Standings Team Pursuit Men
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