After two fascinating meets in North America – Calgary and Salt Lake City – Short Track heads east to Almaty, Kazakhstan for the third ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating of the season. The event, held at the Halyk Arena from 7 to 9 December 2018, should help to clarify whether a new generation of skaters are ready to challenge for the highest honors or if the established guard will stay on top for a while yet.
The battle to be this season’s finest female skater already looks like a two-woman race. The Netherlands’ Suzanne Schulting dominated at the opener in Canada and looks almost unbeatable over 1000m. But at the Utah Oval in Salt Lake City, last year’s top skater, the Republic of Korea’s Choi Min Jeong, brushed off the cobwebs after a slow start to the term to shoot back to the top of the rankings – particularly impressing in the 1500m. On form, nobody is as consistent over 500m, 1000m and 1500m.
Who might be able to break the duopoly? Poland’s Natalia Maliszewska is still the field’s elite sprinter, dominating the 500m (at which she’s ranked No.1) – hotly pursued by young Canadian Alyson Charles. Canada’s Kim Boutin remains able to compete across all three races, while Ekaterina Efremenkova (RUS) is a danger in the 1500m. Sofia Prosvirnova (RUS) also looks capable of making more podiums.
Shaoang and Shaolin Sandor Liu (HUN) 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)
In the Men’s field, it’s the Hungarians who have caught the eye most so far this winter. Not only did they shatter the 5000m Men’s Relay world record in Calgary, but they’ve been excelling individually, too. Shaolin Sandor Liu (HUN) tops the rankings so far, and has looked particularly ruthless in his favored faster distances, the 500m and 1000m. His brother Shaoang Liu (HUN) isn’t far behind – currently ranked fourth in the world. One or other of them always seems to be in contention. In the 1500m, young Republic of Korea athlete Hwang Dae Heon has been the most consistent.
Also in the mix? Sjinkie Knegt (NED) and Charles Hamelin (CAN). Some might point to last year’s ISU World Cup in Budapest as the event where Hungary’s skaters made a real mark, and in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s racers will also want to prove a point on home ice. Abzal Azhgaliyev (KAZ) has been getting stronger, particularly in the 500m, while Denis Nikisha (KAZ) can also break into finals. Anastassiya Krestova (KAZ) leads the female Kazakh contingent.
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World Cup Silver medal, new Kazakhstan record 500 m 👊 Серебро для меня как золото🤗 Я так рад что смог пробиться финал кубка мира и порадовать своих болельщиков 😇 Теперь новый рекорд Казахстана на 500 метров 40.136 🔥🔥🔥 ——————————— ——————————— ——————————— #wcshorttrack#worldcup#isuspeedskating#onehanddown#newnationalrecord
Almaty itself should certainly impress, too: the Halyk Arena is a state-of-the-art venue built for the 2017 Winter Universiade – it’s the perfect place to put #OneHandDown. This weekend’s racing will feature 500m, 1000m and 1500m races for both genders. There will be a 3000m Ladies’ Relay, 5000m Men’s Relay and a 2000m Mixed Gender Relay. World Cup points will be scored, determined by finish. After Almaty, further ISU World Cup events will be held at Dresden (February 1-3) and Torino (February 8-10).
Follow these incredible skaters during the ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating event that will take place in their home Country, Kazakhstan, in Almaty, this weekend. Find out where to watch here and follow the action by joining us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.