Schulting has has won four out of six 1000m World Cup races this season © International Skating Union
Dutch superstar Suzanne Schulting lit up the final day of racing at the ISU Short Track speed skating World Cup in Dresden to cement her status as the world’s very best.
The reigning Olympic 1000m champion has now won four out of the six 1000m World Cup races this season. As is her style, she dominated from the gun in Dresden’s Energieverbund Arena.
“I feel comfortable at the front, I know I am good there and able to generate the speed by myself. It feels really good,” said the 21-year-old, who was in such scintillating form that she surprised even herself.
“I saw the lap times after the race and I was a little impressed with myself.”
The win helped push Schulting clear of rival Choi Min Jeong (KOR) at the top of the world rankings, and she is determined to continue her success.
“I want to go for the win in Bulgaria (at the 2019 ISU Short Track Speed Skating World Championships in March) - the overall title, I want to become world champion. The 1000m title too but the all-around is the most important thing,” Schulting said.
Martina Valcepina (ITA) was the star performer in Sunday's 500m competition © International Skating Union
Not many people will be betting against the Dutchwoman - not least the skaters who finished in her slipstream on Sunday.
“Suzanne is so good,” Kim Ji Yoo, Korea’s 1000m silver medallist, said with a shake of her head, while bronze medal winner Zhang Chutong (CHN) admitted that she would “have to get a lot better to beat Suzanne”.
Italy’s Martina Valcepina gave a similarly dominant display in the ladies’ 500m. The three-time European champion led her 500m quarterfinal and semifinal from the startline to the finish and then repeated the trick in the final.
“It was always the plan - it’s important to control the 500m. I feel more confident out in front, avoiding any contact,” said the Italian who says she performs better in races than in training.
“It’s amazing to watch her. She always produces it when it really matters, even though she looks not so good in training,” laughed teammate Tommaso Dotti, part of the men’s team which won the 5000m relay B final.
Despite her wire-to-wire victory, Valcepina still lies well behind Poland’s Natalia Maliszewska in the season-long 500m World Cup standings. Fresh from winning her country’s first ever individual European title, Maliszewska grabbed bronze on Sunday in her favoured sprint, with Lara van Ruijven (NED) in second.
“I knew it was going to be tough. I was skating with the best athletes, with world champions like Elise (Christie, GBR) and Kim Boutin (CAN), the Olympic champion (who finished fifth and fourth respectively),” Maliszewska said. “But I am super excited to skate with them because it gave me a lot of experience and that is the main thing. This is a time to learn.
Russian starlet Sofia Prosvirnova picked up three gold medals in Dresden © International Skating Union
“My goal is to be the best at the Olympics (in 2022) and whatever happens during these four years is going to bring me to that top level at the right time.”
The Pole’s fellow 2019 European champion, Sofia Prosvirnova, is another looking to the future. The Russian rounded off her weekend in style, adding the mixed gender 2000m relay and the ladies' 3000m relay golds to the 1000m crown she won on Saturday.
For the 21-year-old, and indeed much of the crowd, the mixed relay – a new event this season – was a particular highlight.
“It was so weird to go on the ice with the boys; I started looking for the girls. I think it’s more fun when the boy pushes you and not when you have to push the boy, then it’s a little bit heavy. It was so fun,” Prosvirnova said.
Prosvirnova and the rest of the world’s best will now head to Torino, Italy for the season’s concluding World Cup meet next weekend.