Russia’s Artem Arefyev won his first individual World Cup gold as seasoned campaigners Thomas Krol and Patrick Roest collected yet more titles for the Netherlands from the first leg of the 2020/2021 World Cup series in Heerenveen on Sunday.
The 20-year-old Russian sprinter came out on top when the dust had cleared after an intense battle in the 500m, Krol took his second gold medal of the weekend by edging his team-mate and good friend Kai Verbij in the 1000m and Roest smashed his own track record by more than three seconds to win the 5000m.
Maiden victory for Arefyev
Artem Arefyev (RUS) racing to his first individual World Cup gold on Sunday © International Skating Union (ISU)
After coming ninth in Saturday’s 500m, Artem Arefyev knew he could be in the mix for Sunday’s 500m podium. “Yesterday I skated 34.8 with a big mistake in the second corner,” he explained. “I analyzed that race and, adding it all up, I knew that I would be able to skate 34.5 or maybe even 34.4 today.”
Arefyev ended up with a personal best of 34.45 seconds. Having won a World Cup Team Sprint gold a year ago, he had been focusing on an individual title. “Last year I came fourth by only a 0.01-second margin in a World Cup race, so I sort of expected to be on the podium, I just didn’t know when it was going to happen,” he said.
“I had not expected to win today already, but you must take into account that Ruslan Murashov (RUS) crashed today and Pavel Kulizhnikov (RUS) skated in the B Division [after having crashed on Saturday].”
However, Arefyev is not yet certain of a ticket for the 500m at next month’s ISU World Single Distance Championships, given Russia’s sprinting strength. “There are three tickets per nation and we have four top sprinters,” he said, adding Viktor Mushtakov, who finished seventh, to the mix.
Murashov’s crash hampered his pair-mate and Saturday’s silver medalist Laurent Dubreuil. The Canadian was handed a re-skate, but finished 15th in 35.13.
Netherlands' Dai Dai Ntab added a silver medal to the gold he won on Saturday © International Skating Union (ISU)
Ntab had been cautious because he did not really trust the ice on Sunday. “It was a strange competition with so many crashes in the men’s and ladies’ 500m,” he said. “This [hard] ice may be well-suited for the 5000m, but for sprinters it is dangerous. I had a good opener, but in the first corner my skate broke out a little, so I skated my lap more cautiously.”
Roest cashes in on superb conditions
Ntab’s observation about the ice’s suitability for 5000m skaters was spot on. Norway’s Hallgeir Engebråten had already shown how fast it was earlier when winning the B Division in 6:09.21, just one second short of the track record.
“Of course it’s tough to compare the B Division times [to those in the A Division], because they have quartet starts [with more drafting advantage],” Roest said. “But after seeing that, I knew that the ice was fast and I left on a track record time schedule.”
Patrick Roest (NED) smashed his own track record by three seconds to win the 5000m in style © International Skating Union (ISU)
Indeed, a few laps into his race, Roest was skating way faster than the track record schedule. “It went well from the start. When I skated my [previous] track record, I slowed down a little too much after the opener. Now I managed to pick up the pace faster with 28-second laps. It’s not easy, but I knew that if I could keep that up, it would lead to something beautiful.”
And it did. With 6 minutes and 5.14 seconds, the fresh European Allround Champion took 3.07 seconds off his previous best on the Thialf rink. His senior team-mate Sven Kramer (NED) had to settle for silver in 6:11.80 and Sergey Trofimov (RUS) took bronze in 6:11.94.
The 25-year-old Russian, who skated in the final pairing, said he did not focus on Roest’s record. “Based on what I had seen from the B-group, I knew I could skate about 6-7 seconds faster than last week at the European Championships [6:17.6], so that was my focus.
“Everyone has the same conditions and to come out third today says a lot for my chances at the World Championships.”
Thomas Krol (NED) wins his second gold of the weekend by edging team-mate Kai Verbij in the 1000m © International Skating Union (ISU)
Two out of two for Krol
Thomas Krol concluded the first World Cup weekend by adding a gold medal in the 1000m to his 1500m victory on Saturday, beating his friend Kai Verbij in a tight race. “It’s great to have such an intense battle with my team-mate,” he said after finishing .09 seconds ahead on 1:07.48. “I could catch him in the final corner because I had a good final lap. We pushed each other to a higher level, but my race was far from perfect today. The best thing to take away from today is that I do not need a perfect race to win.”
World record holder Pavel Kulizhnikov (RUS), who like Verbij had crashed in the 500m on Saturday, took bronze in 1:07.63.
Where to Watch
Viewers will be able to watch the ISU Speed Skating competitions that will take place within the hub either via their national broadcaster / channel and for countries where there are no broadcasters, the ISU will offer a live stream on the Skating ISU YouTube Channel.
All the information is available in the Where to Watch which will be updated after each competition. The individual announcements and entry lists will be published under the respective events as soon as they are available. For further information regarding the ISU Speed Skating Hub please visit: https://www.isu.org/heerenveen2021.
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