Esmee Visser (NED) got back to winning ways in Tomaszów Mazowiecki on Sunday as she took gold in the 5000m and bounced back from her 12th place in the 3000m in Tomakomai two weeks ago. Meanwhile, Japan won the Ladies' Team Sprint gold medal despite the absence of star skater Nao Kodaira as Russia secured top spot in the overall Team Sprint ranking.
Visser returns to form in 5000m
Olympic champion Esmee Visser won the 5000m in 7:05.18 © International Skating Union (ISU)
Olympic 5000m champion Esmee Visser (NED) showed her class in Tomaszów Mazowiecki on Sunday and put last month’s disappointing display on the outdoor track of Tomakomai behind her.
The Dutch skater stepped onto the ice after two-time Olympic 5000m champion Martina Sáblíková (CZE) had set a track record of 7:11.26. Visser started more cautiously than her Czech rival but managed to keep her lap times under 34 seconds until the 3400m split, whereas Sáblíková's lap times went up to over 34 seconds from the 2200m split. Visser also had difficulties maintaining speed in the final laps but her finish time of 7:05.18 was good enough for gold. Sáblíková had to settle for fifth place.
Isabelle Weidemann (CAN), a surprise winner of her first career World Cup gold in the Tomakomai 3000m, skated faster in the final laps, but she was too far back to beat Visser's time. The Canadian ended up in silver medal position on 7:06.19. Natalya Voronina (RUS) took bronze in 7:08.68.
After her Tomakomai setback, World Cup newcomer Visser was happy to be back on an indoor rink.
"For me it's hard to accelerate fast. Being pushed back by the wind every lap, (in Tomakomai) I had to gain speed time and again. For me as a lightweight, it's harder than for most others. Tomakomai was an anomaly, this (indoor rink at Tomaszów Mazowiecki) is the way it should be,” the 22-year-old said.
"This is my career first World Cup series. I have to get used to everything: the pressure, the travelling. My trainers told me to look at this as a mere training race, but I still felt some pressure. People expect me to be on the podium, so I'm relieved that I managed to pull it off. Looking back at my race, I think there's room for improvement, but overall I'm satisfied."
Visser climbed back to the top of the long distance World Cup ranking. She has collected 149 points in the first three races. Weidemann is second with 146 points and Voronina lies third with 145 points.
Takagi gives Japan spectacular finish in Team Sprint
Japan took a surprise gold medal in the ladies' Team Sprint © International Skating Union (ISU)
Skating without Olympic 500m Champion Nao Kodaira, Japan grabbed their first World Cup gold in the last Team Sprint race of the season. Konami Soga, Ayano Sato and Miho Takagi finished the three laps in 1:27.82.
However, the overall Team Sprint World Cup title went to Russia. Olga Fatkulina, Angelina Golikova and Yekaterina Shikhova secured top spot by coming second in 1:28.18, one place ahead of the Netherlands (Femke Beuling, Letitia de Jong and Ireen Wüst).
Middle distance specialist Miho Takagi was on last lap duty for Japan, despite not normally skating the Team Sprint.
"I've done it before, but that must have been about four years ago. I was a bit nervous about how to skate, but the girls in front of me skated very well and I felt I still had fresh legs going into the final lap," she said.
"I had to skate three laps with much higher speed (than I'm used to). I think I can make use of this experience for the 1000m, 1500m and Team Pursuit."
Russia won the Team Sprint World Cup with 314 points, ahead of the Netherlands (312 points) and Japan (308 points).