After two competitions on Russian-speaking ground, the Essent ISU World Cup series moved from Astana to the Dutch town of Heerenveen. The Dutch Junior record in the Ladies' 5000m was improved to 7:03.60 by Pien Keulstra. There were a total of 20 personal best times; the World Cup record time of Dutchman Jorrit Bergsma in the 10,000m being the most impressive.
In the Ladies' 500m Jing Yu (CHN) was back in competition and won as clearly in 37.84 as she did in Chelyabinsk, with a final lap of 27.4. Then Olympic Champion Sang-Hwa Lee (KOR) also went below 38 seconds, to 37.91. Beixing Wang (CHN) completed the podium with place in 38.17. Kodaira (JPN) came in at 38.18 and Jenny Wolf (GER) was fifth. Lee leads firmly with 390 points, Jenny Wolf has 340, Yu 300.
In the Men's 500m, Tucker Fredricks (USA) didn't open as fast as last week, but with a 25.3 fastest lap he skated to 34.98. Joji Kato (JPN) was second in 35.07 and Tae-Bum Mo (KOR) took bronze with 35.08. Pekka Koskela (FIN) was fourth arriving at 35.15.
Mo leads the World Cup with 355 points, Kato has 293, Fredricks 288.
In the Ladies' 5000m, the most interesting fact was the victory of 18-year-old Dutch Pien Keulstra in the B-division. She bested her personal time by 9 seconds and bettered the national junior record by 6 seconds when coming in at 7:03.60. It felt very easy, she said.
In the A-division, Olympic silver medalist Stephanie Beckert (GER) reached only 7:04.77, and that was the time for bronze. Masako Hozumi (JPN) also skated a good race (7:04) but was disqualified due to crossing the line. In the final pair, the two Olympic champions Martina Sábliková (CZE) and Claudia Pechstein (GER) were both faster. Sábliková won in 6:58.87 and Pechstein took silver with 7:02.92. Sábliková won all long distance races this season and leads with 300 points. Pechstein follows with 230. Linda de Vries (NED), who finished in fourth place with a new personal best, has 156 points and is third in the rankings.
In the 1500m, the first skater who impressed was Benjamin Macé (FRA), who set a personal best time of 1:46.68. Only three skaters were faster in the end. Ivan Skobrev (RUS) had the fastest time. He started carefully with 24.31, but with laps of 26.2, 26.8 and 28.4 he finished in 1:45.81. That last lap gave him the victory. Kjeld Nuis (NED) and Håvard Bøkko (NOR) raced together to silver and bronze, with 1:45.99 for Nuis and 1:46.49 for Bøkko. Of the top four in the rankings, Denny Morrison (CAN) was best with 1:46.70. With three different winners in three weeks, the ranks are now led by Skobrev who has 202 points, Nuis has 190 and Morrison 180, just like Shani Davis (USA).
Saturday started with the second 500m races. Again, Jing Yu (CHN) was by far the strongest, this time in 37.67. Jenny Wolf (GER) was second in 38.19, and Laurine van Riessen (NED) was a close third in 38.20. In spite of finishing in fourth place, Lee still leads the rankings with 450 points, Wolf has 420, Jing Yu is third with 400 points.
In the men's 500m, Pekka Koskela (FIN) won his second race this year, in 35.01. Jesper Hospes, a young Dutch skater, skated a personal best time of 35.06. Only Joji Kato (JPN) could come between them with 35.02, Tucker Fredricks was fourth with 35.07. Mo (KOR) leads with 400 points, Kato follows 373 and Fredricks is third now with 348 points.
There is only one woman who impresses in the 1500m. Christine Nesbitt (CAN) won again, with 1:55.68 a second and a half faster than Ireen Wüst (NED) who finished in 1:57.15. In third place skated Yekaterina Shikhova (RUS) who was only marginally slower than Wüst: 1:57.17. The Russian team was doing well as a whole, Julia Skokova and Yevgenia Dmitrieva both skated a personal best and finished in 4th and 6th place. These ladies are now coached by Italian Maurizio Marchetto, who in 2006 coached Enrico Fabris to the Olympic title.
Nesbitt increased her lead and has 280 points, Wüst has 250 and Shikhova moved past Pechstein to third in the rankings with 148 points.
In the first pair of the men's 10,000m, Bob de Vries (NED) skated a good race with laps between 30.8 and 31.5 seconds and reached 13:03.41. Håvard Bøkko also skated a good and even race in the same range, with a lot of 31.2 and 31.1 laps, which led him to a 13:05.55 finish. Then De Vries' team mate Bob de Jong skated a tremendous race with only some laps above 31 at the start of his race, but 10 seconds faster in the second half than in the first. His time, 12:55.11, was the third best time ever skated at the Thialf ice rink. He thought that would be good enough for the win, but the last pair featured Sven Kramer and Jorrit Bergsma. They were pretty much equal until 4400m, but then Bergsma overtook Kramer and found his own pace, with 30.4 lap times, and some even faster at the end. At 4800m Kramer decided that he did not have the stamina yet to go through the wall that he was bumping into. He decided to simply finish the race and for the first time since the world championships of 2005 in Moscow, Kramer lost to a pair mate on the long distance. Bergsma finished brilliantly in the fastest time ever skated in the World Cup and also a new personal best time of 12:50.33, just half a second above the track record. The three men on the podium are all members of the same Dutch marathon skating team. Bergsma leads the World Cup with 280 points. Kramer has 210 points and Bob de Jong 190.
In the Ladies' 1000m, Jing Yu (CHN), who had won the 500m races, skated a strong 1:15.85. Only Christine Nesbitt (CAN) could beat that time, reaching 1:15.32. The silver for Yu was a first for her in this distance. The Russian skater Yekaterina Shikhova managed to skate a very even race. In spite of a slow start she finished third, mainly because she had a final lap as fast as Nesbitt's and reached 1:16.16. The Dutch were not at their best this time, Marrit Leenstra finished fifth. Consequently, Nesbitt leads with 300 points, Leenstra is presently second with 180 points and Margot Boer is third with 166.
The Men's 1000m races had some delays for ice repair after various skaters fell. But in the end, the best times were skated in the final pairs, as could be expected. Sjoerd de Vries (NED) beat Tae-Bum Mo (KOR) in a tight duel, overtaking him on the final straight. De Vries finished in 1:09.14, Mo in 1:09.18. They took silver and bronze, as the gold was for Kjeld Nuis, after being runner up twice behind his countryman Stefan Groothuis. Nuis finished in 1:08.63, Groothuis finished fourth in 1:09.20. Three Dutch lead the ranking, Nuis and Groothuis both have 260 points and Sjoerd de Vries is third with 180.
In the Team Pursuit, the Dutch women were the fastest for two and a half laps, but then Leenstra fell and the team did not finish. The Canadians with whom they were paired, Christine Nesbitt, Brittany Schussler and Cindy Klassen, continued to skate to a track record time of 3:00.01. They lead overall with 200 points, followed by Russia (150) and Korea (130) who finished second and third here.
The Dutch men won with Sven Kramer, Jan Blokhuijzen and Wouter Olde Heuvel, all of the Dutch TVM-team. They reached 3:42.34. The Korean team reached second place with a strong finish and 3:43.82 and the Germans were third in 3:45.28. The Dutch have 200 points, Korea and Germany both 140.
As a demonstration event there were Team Sprint races. The Japanese women won ahead of Germany and the Netherlands. The Dutch men won ahead of Rusia and Canada.
The skaters will now have a month without international competition to prepare for the races in January.