Ireen Wüst and Sven Kramer (NED) won the World Allround title this weekend in Moscow. Kramer, who also won in 2007, 08, 09 and 2010, is now one of three skaters in history to win this title five times. The others were Oscar Mathisen (NOR, 1908-1914) and Clas Thunberg (FIN, 1923-1931). It was the third title for Wüst after 2007 and 2011. The Dutch men also took silver and bronze. There were 13 personal bests (pb), five for the ladies and eight for the men, including a Latvian record for Haralds Silovs with a time of 13:43.65, this not counting Silovs' NR points of 152.409.
The favourites for the podium were the reigning champion Ireen Wüst (NED), European champion Martina Sáblíkova (CZE) and the strongest sprinter among the participants, Christine Nesbitt (CAN) with not forgetting the almost 40-year-old Claudia Pechstein (GER). Dutch allround champion Marrit Leenstra competed but was feeling not well and thus didn't have the strength to compete for the medals, unlike her compatriot Linda de Vries.
Nesbitt won the 500m as expected; her time was 38.30. Wüst was paired with Yekaterina Lobysheva (RUS). The Russian had a strong race and was fastest of the two with 38.95, but Wüst's 39.37 gave her bronze for the distance. Sábliková was 14th with 40.31 and Pechstein 15th. Linda de Vries had her first 500m below forty seconds with 39.79, which brought her to sixth place. There were 3 personal bests in this distance.
Sáblíková won the 3000m in a new TR of 4:01.80, but Ireen Wüst finished right behind her in 4:02.69, both below the former track record. Cindy Klassen (CAN) had been the first below 4:11 with 4:07.50. Pechstein bettered that to 4:07.14. Nesbitt raced just before the race of Wüst and Sáblíková, but having problems to keep the pace in the final laps, Nesbitt clocked 4:09.55 and was sixth. Her pair mate De Vries finished stronger and took third place with 4:07.06, one of two personal bests in this distance. Wüst, always strong in the 1500m, took the overall lead with 79.818 points. Sáblíková, who knows how to win the 5000m, had 80.610, with Nesbitt in between with 79.891. Wüst was satisfied with the race, with enough strength to attack two laps before the end. Tomorrow's 1500m will be a key distance. It's my distance that I want to win and I like to skate with Nesbitt like last week. De Vries was still close to the podium after two pbs.
The 1500m did not go as Wüst had hoped; where she beat Nesbitt a year ago and last week, the Canadian was this time the best on this distance. Nesbitt won with 1:55.95 and took over the lead in the rankings as Wüst clocked 1:56.98. The time of Nesbitt was a new track record by the smallest possible margin. Although there was a second between them, Wüst still was next to Nesbitt on the podium, and third was former champion Cindy Klassen (CAN) who is on her way back to form. Klassen finished in 1:57.61 and passed De Vries to the fourth place in the ranking. Third in the ranking after this third distance was Martina Sábliková, who did not have a bad 1500m, but finished fourth in 1:58.16. Nesbitt was leading with a 2.7 second margin on Wüst for the 5000m, Sábliková had to make up 14.55 on Wüst to win, but considering that her pb was also over 13 seconds faster, this seemed not impossible.
In the fourth pair for the 5000m, Linda de Vries overtook Cindy Klassen in the ranking in a direct duel. The two went side by side until Klassen took off at 3500m and seemed to succeed in winning the race, but the last lap that proved just too much, with De Vries managing a strong finish, sprinting towards the line and clocking7:08.09, 0.01 seconds behind her personal best time. In the end she passed Klassen by a mere 0.001 point. They finished fourth and fifth in the overall classification and third and fourth for the distance, faster than Pechstein who didn't reach beyond 7:11.08, far behind her track record on this rink, and was sixth in the final ranking. Then Sábliková faced Wüst. Wüst attacked from the start but not as wildly as at times in the past. With good control she stayed close to Sábliková and used the crossing a couple of times to be in the slipstream and then make speed in the inner turn. As expected, Sábliková would break away to win the distance, but she could not accelerate in the last three laps, when Wüst got to lap times of 34 seconds. Sábliková kept low 33 laps to the end and won in 6:58.74, knowing she had not regained the title. Wüst's 7:02.39 was a really strong result. It actually gave her the title, as Nesbitt would need to set a personal best of 7:05.08 to win. She skated in the sixth and final pair against young Norwegian Ida Njåtun, who finished with a promising 7th place in the classification. Nesbitt was eighth on the distance, considerably better than a year earlier; 7:18.19 was enough to secure bronze.
Wüst: I am very happy with this title, it felt so good; I felt strong all year and it is very special for me to prolong the title this way. I recently got the schedule for the last weeks of this season, and this period is really the most fun. This 5000m was the best I have ever skated, so close to Sábliková I have never been.
Ivan Skobrev was the title defender and skated in his home country. Last year he had won the title in the absence of Sven Kramer, but Kramer came back strong after a year of injury and proved, when winning the European title in the absence of Skobrev, that he can still win an allround competition. Then last year's runner up Håvard Bøkko (NOR) is always someone to reckon with, as well as Dutch skaters Jan Blokhuijsen, and Koen Verweij and Jonathan Kuck (USA).
In the 500m, Kramer was the first of the favourites to race; he finished with 36.70. Then Verweij reached 36.26 in his race with Jan Szymanski (POL), who skated a pb of 36.52. All Polish skaters did well: Niedzwiedzki needed 36.32 and Zbigniew Brodka was a little faster than Verweij and won with 36.24, also a personal best time in his race against Bøkko who took an advantage on Kramer with 36.47. Strong outsider Haralds Silovs (LAT) finished fourth with 36.42. Skobrev lost quite a bit with 37.05 but Blokhuijsen was a bit faster than Kramer with 36.56. There were 4 pbs in this distance.
With four pairs to go in the 5000m, the best time was set by the Junior World Champion from Norway, Sverre Lunde Pedersen: 6:26.04 with a very even race with laps in the mid 30 seconds. Then Kuck and Contin (FRA) skated. Kuck's laps went up in the second half of the race, but Contin managed to finish faster than the young Norwegian and reached 6:24.69. Bøkko then had a good and even race as well, but his 6:22.21 was not enough for the podium. Skobrev was paired with Verweij; the task of the latter was to stay close to the Russian in order to make use of his slipstream at the crossing straight and stay ahead of him in the ranking. That strategy went well, Skobrev finished just outside the track record with 6:19.78, Verweij crossed the line after 6:20.70. The final pair was spectacular. Blokhuijsen opened very fast against Kramer. After 1000m he was almost 5 seconds below track record schedule. Kramer also skated 29second laps, and in the second half of the race Blokhuijsen's laps moved to just above 30 seconds, whereas Kramer could keep the laps under 30, so Kramer passed his team mate just after 3000m, and took the victory on the distance with 6:14.23. Blokhuijsen reached 6:16.99, both were faster than the old track record. Three Dutchmen took over first places after day one. Kramer had 74.123 points, Blokhuijsen 74.259, Verweij 74.330. Bøkko, Skobrev and Silovs followed in that order.
Skobrev showed a strong 1500m, the first below 1:47 with 1:46.94. He dropped much less than a second per lap: laptimes were 26.9, 27.3 and 28.2. But Bøkko gained more than half a second on him in the opening 200m, had laps of 26.4, 27.8 and 28.6 but that was enough to take the distance victory to Norway, with 1:46.82. Kramer and Blokhuijsen battled each other rather than Bøkko and had a strange race. Blokhuijsen took the opening 200, then had a 26.8 lap to lose 0.1 on Kramer, then a 27.9 where Kramer had 27.4 and Kramer was leading even on Skobrev, but then Blokhuijsen took the race with a 28.3 final lap, Kramer 28.7 to reach 1:47.30. Blokhuijsen took third place with 1:47.22. Belgian Bart Swings set a national record in this distance and qualified for the final 10,000m.
Verweij, only sixth in the 1500m, was still third in the ranking with just 1.54 to lose on Bøkko on the 10,000m, a gap that Bøkko would normally bridge. Kramer was leader with 109.889 points, and could afford to lose 2.20 on Blokhuijsen, but that was not very likely in the direct confrontation in the final pair of the competition.
In the final 10,000m Bøkko raced with Silovs. Silovs finished in a new Latvian record of 13:43.66, which brought him to 8th place in the distance and a respectable 7th overall. There were also pbs for Brodka from Poland and Sverre Lunde Pedersen, the reigning World Junior champion. But Bøkko could see him in the back in the final part of his race. The Norwegian kept mid 31 laps followed by two 32 laps and finished in 13:16.75. In the next to last pair, Skobrev and Verweij raced. Verweij took the lead and Skobrev followed a little behind. Midway, Verweij had the same time as Bøkko but he started to lose on the Norwegian, while Skobrev was picking up the pace and overtook Verweij with 3 laps to go. Skobrev rushed to 13:13.16, but Verweij used the two final laps to give it his all in order to keep his third place in the classification. It was just enough; he finished in 13:17.31 and had 150.085 points. Bøkko was disappointed to just miss the podium with 150.134 points. Skobrev was finally fifth with 150.332. Gold and silver was to be decided in the final pair. Blokhuijsen tried to attack, but the two team mates went side by side during the first half of the race. By then they were three seconds faster than Bøkko or Verweij which allowed them to lose 6.62 seconds on the latter. To break Blokhuijsen, Kramer increased his speed to low 31 laps in the second half of the race, where Blokhuijsen had to settle for the higher 31s and had to be happy with silver. Kramer won the last distance in 13:08.76, Blokhuijsen followed in 13:12.31 and Skobrev kept Bøkko from the 10k podium. In the final classification, Kramer is the champion with 149.327, Blokhuijsen has silver with 149.614 and Verweij completed the Dutch podium.
Kramer: I may look relaxed but my legs hurt after this 10k. That I am in the honourable company of Oscar Mathisen and Clas Thunberg as the only ones to win this title five times is a nice extra, but I am most happy with being back on this level again. Half a year ago I had not expected this. I'm satisfied, a super feeling.