Russia's men power to gold in the Team Pursuit to clinch the discipline's overall World Cup for this season 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Russia’s men set the standard on Day 2 of the World Cup in Nagano, blowing away a track record and winning both gold medals on offer: the 2nd 500m and the Team Pursuit, clinching the overall Team Pursuit World Cup in the process.
500m Men: Russians bring down track record
While Japan had doubled up for gold and silver on Day 1’s 500m, it was the Russians who took the top two spots in the 2nd 500m at the ISU World Cup Speed Skating on Saturday.
Murakami faced his team-mate, and Friday’s runner-up, Tatsuya Shinhama in the final pair, facing a tough challenge put up by the Russian pair.
With a time of 34.52 seconds, world-record holder Kulizhnikov took 0.06 seconds off Murakami's track record from the day before.
Mushtakov, who had won a career-first World Cup gold in the 500m in Kazakhstan last weekend, shaved another two hundreds off that mark to bring the record at Nagano’s M-Wave down to 34.50.
"I did not think of the track record at all. I was focused on skating well technically," Mushtakov said.
"It was not perfect, but I skated a lot better than yesterday. My opener was not very good, but the full lap was smooth."
Viktor Mushtakov set a track record on his way to winning the Men's 2nd 500m on Saturday 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
For his part, Kulizhnikov is glad to have left behind the injury troubles which kept him out of the first three World Cups of the season.
"Physically, I'm fully recovered,” he said after following Friday’s bronze with a silver over the same distance on Saturday. “Now I have to get rid of it in my head too."
Content with their own performance, the Russians were relaxed as they watched their Japanese rivals in the final pair.
"If they had been faster, they would have earned it today," Mushtakov said.
In the event, the Japanese pair had to settle for bronze and fourth place, with Murakami admitting that the speed of the Russians had put him off.
"They skated so fast,” he said. “I felt pressure to win today. I tried to stay focused, not to make any mistakes, to stay aggressive.
“In the first 300 meters I was able to execute my skating well, but then it became more difficult, because [the legs were tired from] yesterday's 500m race and the team sprint.
"My next challenge is to stay consistent."
ISU World Cup Speed Skating Standings 500m Men
The medallists in the Men's Team Pursuit (left to right): Japan (silver), Russia (gold) and Canada (bronze) 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Team Pursuit Men: Russians take gold to clinch overall Team Pursuit World Cup
The Russian endurance specialists followed the example of their sprinting compatriots to win the Team Pursuit. Aleksandr Rumyantsev, Danila Semerikov and Ruslan Zakharov stopped the clock at 3:42.93 in the second pairing.
That victory confirmed Russia as overall winners of this season's Team Pursuit World Cup.
"We have a strong team. It's different from last year but we are skating well together," Zakharov said.
Skating well they certainly are, but Semerikov insisted that winning the World Cup does not make Russia favorites for gold at the World Single Distance Championships in Salt Lake City in February.
"The World Cup in Team Pursuit is different from the major championships,” he said. “The Dutch will have their strongest line-up and [Sverre Lunde] Pedersen (NOR) will be the engine of Norway again."
In Nagano the Dutch fielded a junior team because their big guns are preparing for the Dutch national single distance championships, the nation’s qualifiers for the European and world championships later this season. Beau Snellink, Harm Visser and Jordy van Workum ended a distant seventh, 14.93 seconds behind the winners.
Without anchor Pedersen, Norway's Håvard Bøkko, Hallgeir Engebråten, and Kristian Ulekleiv had to settle for fifth place at 4.51.
Japan pushed hard but were unable to match the powerful Russians 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Only hosts Japan managed to get close to Russia, finishing in 3:42.99 to take silver. After having skipped the World Cup in Nur-Sultan last time out, Seitaro Ichinohe, Ryosuke Tsuchiya and Shane Williamson had been aiming for gold in their home World Cup.
"We tried a different strategy, going faster from the start,” a disappointed Ichinohe explained. “We did not manage to hold on, but we gained a lot of experience today."
Team effort is key in this discipline, and the Japanese men drew inspiration from the stirring performances of their national rugby team at the World Cup in Japan earlier this year.
"They had a slogan 'One Team' and we feel the same. We are racing together as a team and it shows, because we're becoming more and more competitive," Ichinohe said.
Belchos, who won individual gold in the Mass Start on Friday, said that youngsters Graeme Fish and Langelaar have added depth to the Canadian team.
"With Graeme having his first and Tyson his first two [starts in the Team Pursuit World Cup], we finished fourth, second and third [in the three legs]. It tells me that the program of our whole team is getting there and we probably have a good future when Ted [-Jan Bloemen] and I decide to quit, whenever that is."
Bloemen hopes to improve on third place at the World Single Distance Championships in the USA in February.
"We're definitely in contention,” he said. “We had a chance in the World Cups to try different things and every time we got a little better."
ISU World Cup Speed Skating Standings Team Pursuit Men
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