Prosvirnova shrugged aside injury to take her first World Cup gold © International Skating Union
Russia’s Sofia Prosvirnova stole the show with her first ever individual World Cup victory on a day of high-octane Short Track speed skating action in Dresden’s Energieverbund Arena on Saturday.
The 21-year-old, who has long been touted as a future star of the sport, believes a new “relaxed” attitude was the key to her victory. But in keeping with a day full of thrills and spills, Prosvirnova was made to wait until the very final metre to confirm her 1000m gold.
Having jostled for the lead throughout with Poland’s sprint sensation Natalia Maliszewska and Choi Ji Hyun (KOR), the podium places were only decided on the final bend when Maliszewska caught an edge and went down, leaving Prosvirnova free to power past the Korean.
“That was awesome,” Prosvirnova said. “I didn’t focus too hard today, I just tried to enjoy it and have fun.”
The Russian’s triumph was made even more impressive by the fact she was battling a sore neck sustained during a fall in Friday’s heats, as well as the after-effects of a back injury which has been troubling her since before last month’s European Championships.
But here she set a pace that most of the field struggled to live with. Italy’s Cynthia Mascitto took the bronze and the 26-year-old said: “With three laps to go I was a little nervous about my third place but I tried to keep up with the girls and hope that the others behind were just as tired.”
Korea’s Kim Ji Yoo (L) lead a strong 1500m field including compatriot Choi Min Jeong (R) © International Skating Union
The ladies’ 1500m proved just as dramatic. The final seemed to be set up as a showdown between the two women currently topping the overall world rankings, Suzanne Schulting (NED) and Choi Min Jeong (KOR). But in a sign of the strength-in-depth of the sport, both were outshone.
In an eight-woman final the lead changed hands throughout before Korea’s Kim Ji Yoo burst past PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games triple medallist Kim Boutin (CAN) to snatch gold on the line. Schulting, winner of four individual World Cup titles already this season, was left in third with world No.1 Choi out of the medals in fourth.
“I am excited and surprised to beat Choi,” said gold medallist Kim. “I don’t know why we are so good (in Korea) but we do train so much and we do have so many athletes.”
Kim Boutin took an impressive silver medal on a good day for Canada's skaters © International Skating Union
Boutin was far from surprised to see another Korean top the podium but feels she is edging ever closer to working out a way to beat them.
“It is normal to see them at the top, but I am happy to have got silver,” the Canadian said. “It is one of my weaknesses normally (skating) in traffic and this was a really strategic race. To be a good skater you have to be good in these conditions too, so I am getting there.”
Schulting too saw bright things in her bronze medal. The Dutch skater said: “I am not frustrated. It was a really nice race. There was lots of passing, it was really fun. I really enjoyed it.
“Of course I want to win but it’s another medal and I am still going strong. Today I had the feeling that any of us could have won and that we were all at the same level.”
Schulting will be back in action in tomorrow’s 500m, while part two of the 1000m, the 2000m mixed relay and the 3000m ladies relay are also scheduled for Sunday.