Håvard Holmefjord Lorentzen (NOR) secured his first career World Cup win at the start of the ISU World Cup speed skating season in Heerenveen, the Netherlands, on Friday.
Lorentzen had to wait a long time before he was sure of the gold medal, having raced in the fourth out of 10 pairings. But one after another the favorites failed to match the 25-year-old’s mark.
Dai Dai Ntab (NED), who had won the Dutch national title with 34.67 in Thialf in October, had to settle for fifth place in 34.92.
World record holder Pavel Kulizhnikov (RUS), who was hampered by a groin injury the past two weeks, clocked 34.96 to become sixth.
“I had hoped for the podium,” Lorentzen said with the gold medal round his neck and a big smile on his face.
The Norwegian had a breakthrough year last season, when he took silver in the World Sprint Championships. He kept up the good work this summer. “I improved a lot last year and kept building on that,” he said.
Lorentzen knew he was good, just not how good. “My training races in Stavanger were fast but the conditions were not as good as here in Heerenveen, so I expected a fast race, but I did not expect to win the first race of the season.”
Silver medal winner Ihle was excited about his race too. “My race was very good,” he said. “Normally I need a lot of races to become better and better, so starting the season like this is very good for me.”