Ireen Wüst (NED) put the icing on the cake of a prolific season, crushing her own track record to win the 1500m at the ISU World Cup Speed Skating final in Heerenveen on Sunday. Angelina Golikova (RUS) also skated a track record, winning the final 500m of the season. Nao Kodaira (JPN) lost her track record but took home the 500m World Cup title. Melissa Wijfje also had a great day, making her first World Cup podium with bronze in the 1500m, followed by gold in the mass start.
Ireen Wüst of the Netherlands celebrates her 1500m victory
Ladies 1500m: Wüst signs off in style
To start the final day of the season, last week’s World Allround champion Ireen Wüst (NED) and World Sprint champion Miho Takagi (JPN) lined up in the penultimate pairing of the ladies 1500m in the battle for ultimate prestige.
Takagi had the fastest opener but Wüst took the initiative after the first full lap and did not surrender her advantage.
On the finishing straight, Takagi did all she could to close the tight gap, but it proved too big a task and she fell over crossing the line.
Wüst clocked 1 minute and 53.10 seconds to beat her own 2018 track record by 0.20 seconds. Despite falling, Takagi also managed to finish inside Wüst's 2018 mark, taking the day’s silver in 1:53.27.
After having won the European and World 1500m titles and the Wold Allround crown this season, she concluded the season on another high note.
"I never thought about the track record today," she said. "When I woke up this morning I first thought I wanted to stay in bed but on the other hand I looked forward to skate. Nothing beats skating in a sold-out Thialf stadium.
"There was quite a bit of pressure today. I wanted to win that World Cup and I had a great draw against Miho [Takagi]. Last season’s [track record] time was pretty sharp, but the conditions [low air pressure] were good, the crowd was great and a good opponent also helps."
After her race, the 33-year-old record Olympian announced that she will continue speed skating for at least two more years, having signed a new contract at the Dutch Reggeborgh trade team.
Takagi finished the season with mixed feelings. "On the last straight I was so tired, I couldn't control my skates anymore.
"I enjoyed the atmosphere and it was a very close race with Ireen but today it was her race. She had the initiative. I enjoyed the battle but I pity the result a little."
Wüst and Takagi took first and second place in the 1500m World Cup ranking, with Yevgenia Lalenkova(RUS) taking third after finishing fourth in 1:54.71 on Sunday.
Coming third on the day, Melissa Wijfje (NED) claimed a career-first World Cup medal, a bronze, in 1:54.69; she would have an even bigger prize to celebrate about two hours later.
ISU World Cup Speed Skating Standings 1500m Ladies
The ladies 500m silver medallist Nao Kodaira of Japan, gold medallist Angelina Golikova of Russia and bronze medallist Vanessa Herzog of Austria
Ladies 500m: Golikova takes last win, World Cup for Kodaira
In the last ladies 500m race of the season, Angelina Golikova (RUS) made amends for a disappointing fifth place on Saturday. The 28-year-old Russian hammered out a 37.02 second 500m to lower Nao Kodaira's 2018 track record by 0.15 seconds in the penultimate pairing.
Kodaira started the final pairing as leader of the World Cup ranking. She was unable to recapture her track record, but did secure the World Cup title, coming second in 37.19.
Kodaira was happy to see Golikova win: "I can learn a lot from losing. Two years ago I won everything, that was no fun. Now there are more rivals and I like it. That motivates me to train more, too."
Golikova, who celebrated her win dancing and waving hearts to the crowd, pushed teammate Olga Fatkulina – fourth in 37.39 on Sunday – to third place in the overall ranking. Saturday's winner Vanessa Herzog (AUT) came third in 37.25 in the final race of the season.
Earlier this season Golikova broke Fatkulina's Russian national record.
"Olga is very good," Golikova said. "I'm strong, but she has a better technique and my technique sometimes falters. If I'm too nervous, my technique is worse, so I have to stay relaxed on the ice.
"Yesterday was not good, so I turned the negative energy into a positive today. I didn't feel so stressed and I was really focused on first place."
ISU World Cup Speed Skating Standings 500m Ladies
Ladies Mass Start
The final ladies Mass Start of the season did not, for a change, end in a bunch sprint. Marina Zueva (BLR) set up an escape in the second lap, with Melissa Wijfje (NED), Karolina Gasecka (POL) and Claudia Pechstein(GER) joining her.
The four escapees quickly gained more than half a lap on the bunch and Wijfje then knew the breakaway was to last to the very end.
"At first I thought, well just let them [her fellow escapees] work, but when we looked at the bunch in the back at the straights, I knew this was a one-in-thousand chance and I joined the work up front."
When Wijfje started pulling, Pechstein and Gasecka had to give way, but Zueva managed to keep up with her Dutch companion and the two worked together until the final sprint.
"I know I'm a bit faster than her [in the sprint] Wijfje said, and she proved it, easily leaving Zueva behind on the final corner. "A perfect end to the season," she said.
Irene Schouten (NED) took third place, winning the bunch sprint. Mostly Wijfje does the hard work for sprinter Schouten to take the honours, so this time Schouten was happy to finally see her teammate win.
"This shows how much of a team effort the mass start is. It's so beautiful to win in a sold-out Thialf. I already know that feeling and it's just so great that Melissa's got that feeling, too, now."
Schouten came second in the mass start World Cup, behind Ivanie Blondin (CAN), who had a big points margin over her rivals going into the final race and eventually finished fifth.
"I pretty much just had to show up for the race and that's what I did," Blondin said.
"I was pretty exhausted form all the racing I did recently. It would have been nice to be on the podium today, but at the same time I'd rather just make sure that I stand up on my feet and finish the race."
ISU World Cup Speed Skating Standings Mass Start Ladies