Everyone expected Pavel Kulizhnikov (RUS) to reel in his fourth World Sprint title easily, but the Russian rocket faltered on the first day. Tatsuya Shinhama (JPN) and Laurent Dubreuil (CAN) took advantage finishing in first and second place after Day 1 of the ISU World Sprint Championships in Hamar, Norway, on Friday. Kulizhnikov, although still third in the ranking after the first 500m and 1000m, decided to call it quits, leaving third place to Yamato Matsui (JPN).
Dubreuil gets into the tournament well
To the delight of the Norwegian home crowd, Håvard Lorentzen (NOR) was the first to skate under 35 seconds in the opening 500m. The Olympic 500m champion stopped the clock at 34.90 in the seventh of fourteen pairings.
Lorentzen's time stood until Kulizhnikov set 34.60 in the eleventh pairing, with Cha Min Kyu (KOR) finishing 0.11 later in 34.71.
Laurent Dubreuil (CAN) skated 34.55 in the penultimate pair and despite opening two tenths of a second faster, Tatsuya Shinhama (JPN) needed 0.03 more to complete the full distance. Shinhama lost speed because of a mis-stroke in the final corner.
With Dubreuil and Shinhama first and second, world record holder Kulizhnikov had to settle for third place in the opening distance and Lorentzen eventually placed eighth.
"I really needed to get into the championships with this race," Dubreuil said. "A bad race can lose you a championship already. A good race will not win it, but you'll be in it."
Laurent Dubreuil(CAN) | 2020 © International Skating Union (ISU)
Track record for non-specialist
Although he is a 500m specialist, Shinhama firmly took hold of the lead in the rankings with a superb 1000m. The 23-year-old Japanese sprinter was the only one to skate a personal best in the double distance and his 1:08.28 was 0.10 faster than Shani Davis' (USA) 2007 track record.
Joel Dufter (GER) took a surprise second place in the 1000m with 1:08.65, and Yamato Matsui (JPN) finished third in 1:08.69.
Dubreuil faced Kjeld Nuis (NED) in the 1000m and almost beat the Olympic champion. Nuis trailed by 0.73 at the 600m split and only edged out the Canadian with a quick move to the line on the final straight.
"This was a very poor race," Nuis said. "If a Japanese guy [Shinhama], who normally is tired after 300m already, skates 1:08.2, I should be able to skate 1:07 something."
The Dutchman eventually finished in 1:08.73 for fourth place and Dubreuil took fifth in 1:08.79.
Dubreuil dropped to second place in the ranking, 0.225 points behind Shinama, which translates to 0.23 seconds in the 500m. Matsui trails Shinhama by 0.515 points.
"My 1000m was tougher [than the 500m]," Dubreuil said. "I was aggressive at the start, but when I passed Kjeld [Nuis] in the first exchange, I stopped being aggressive, and I did not have enough energy in the last lap. But [it's] still a good result.
"I'm really happy with where I stand right now. Of course, it's a dream [to become world champion] but you don’t become world champion by thinking about it throughout the weekend.
"I need to show up tomorrow and execute a good 500m first."
Showing up tomorrow is what Kulizhnikov will not do.
"After 300m into the 500m I already felt that it was going to be nothing at all today. The legs were empty," the defending champion said.
"I had the feeling as if I was going to be ill, skating was very difficult."
After three starts and three wins, the 2020 tournament thus marks Kulizhnikov's first World Sprint Championships without winning gold.
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