The European Speed Skating Championships were held in the Thialf stadion in Heerenveen. Skaters from seventeen different countries gathered to compete for the European title.
Title defender Martina Sáblíková (CZE) couldn't add a fifth title in Wüst's home country. It was Kramer's sixth European title. Only Rintje Ritsma has won six European titles before. Their team-mates Jan Blokhuijsen and Linda de Vries took silver, bronze was for Håvard Bøkko (NOR) and a third Dutch lady, Diane Valkenburg.
It was a three-day event for the men as the ladies started on Saturday for the traditional two-day competition. There were championships records on three distances for the ladies and on the 10,000m Men. There were ten personal best on distances for both, the ladies and the men (twenty in total); including three Belgian records and a Swedish Junior record. There were also national record points for Russia (164.436, Olga Graf), Belgium (150.277, Bart Swings) and Germany (152.044, Moritz Geisreiter).
The men's competitions started on Friday. The winner of the 500m was the Pole, Konrad Niedzwiedzki. From 2006 to 2013, he has an impressive record. He won this distance five times, and was on every podium with bronze in '07 and silver in '08 and '09. His time here was 35.93. His countryman Zbigniew Bródka took second place as he did last year, in 36.03, a Personal Best. These skaters were not among the favourites for the longer distances; of those who could reach the final podium, Bøkko had reason to smile; he was third in the 500m with 36.14, gaining an advantage on Jan Blokhuijsen of 2.6 seconds on the 5000m. Blokhuijsen was fourth with 36.40. Kramer was seventh with 36.70. He shared this seventh place with young Swede David Andersson, for whom this was a Personal Best and a Norwegian Junior Record.
After the 5000m on the same day, it had become much clearer who had chances to win. Kramer was the first of the favourites to race, against Bøkko. He was forced to do something good that might be out of reach for Blokhuijsen, and therefore attacked the race fast from the start at an even pace of mid 29 laps. 6:12.55 was a little slower than the times he and Blokhuijsen had set during the Dutch championships, but Blokhuijsen had trouble keeping laps below 30 seconds and lost his 3 second lead over Kramer, when he finished in 6:18.16. Still, the second best time in the distance. Bøkko did not have a good 5000m, as he was not sitting low enough, and finished in 6:23.38. Bronze on the distance was for Bøkko's young team mate Sverre Lunde Pedersen, who finished in 6:19.07, a little bit faster than his old Personal Best, and also faster than Bart Swings, whose 6:19.13 was a new Belgian record. There were also Personal Bests for the third Norwegian, Simen Spieler Nilsen; and a second Personal Best for Bródka.
After the first day, Kramer was leading with 73.955 points, Blokhuijsen was second with 74.216 and Bøkko with 74.478 third, followed closely by Lunde Pedersen and Skobrev.
On Saturday, in the Men's 1500m, Belgian Ferre Spruyt and Austrian Bram Smallenbroek skated Personal Best times on this distance. They were well behind the 1:46.32 that Niedzwiedzki posted in his race with a disappointing former champion Ivan Skobrev (RUS), who lost again ground in the ranking and just barely made the final distance. The second place in that distance was for Bródka, 1:46.38, and right behind him was Lunde Pedersen, who with 1:46.39 defeated his teammate Bøkko in a straight duel. Bøkko's 1:46.78 brought him past Blokhuijsen in the ranking; Blokhuijsen skated 1:47.49 and Kramer 1:47.49. Thus Kramer kept the lead with 109.785, Bøkko was second with 110.071 but very close were Blokhuijsen 110.179, Lunde Pedersen 110.230 and Niedzwiedzki and Swings were also within 111 points. A change of rules from twelve to only eight skaters in the last distance kept a few good skaters out of the final races. Niedzwiedzki was happy with two victories and One of my best 5ks ever. But I'm especially happy with the 1500m. This was my first 1500m win. I had to work hard on my speed this last week as I have been on bad ice in Poland for a month.
In the final 10,000m, Swings and Skobrev were first on the ice. Swings skated a wonderful and even race, resulting in a Belgian record time of 13:08.08 and amassed National Record points of 150.277. Skobrev did not impress and finished behind him with 151.554 points, sixth overall, as both Geisreiter and Niedzwiedzki stayed behind him. Geisreiter with a Personal Best of 13:09.68 got National Record points of 152.044. Niedzwiedzki improved his Personal Best on this distance as well and reached seventh place for the first time in his career. Then the two Norwegian skaters raced each other and cooperated until 8000m mark, when the younger one had to let Bøkko go. Bøkko secured the overall bronze with 13:08.16 and a total of 149.479 points. Lunde Pedersen had to settle for fourth place.
In the final pair, Sven Kramer proved himself a true winner, taking the distance in 12:55.98, a Championships Record time. His total came to 148.584 points. Jan Blokhuijsen could keep up with him for 8000m, then Kramer made more speed and Blokhuijsen went on to finish in 13:01.60, second both on the distance and in the ranking with 149.259 points.
Kramer: Of course I am happy, but my goals are beyond this title, at the Olympics. I doubt at times and like to get a confirmation regularly. The long distances tend to go more easily. If you want too much you often lose your technique. You try to get the maximum out of your body, but that stops at some point. I am happy with my 5K, but the 10K should be faster.
The Ladies' competition had 2007, 2010, and 2011 champion Martina Sábliková and Ireen Wüst as favourites, but Sábliková had problems with her back and was uncertain how far she could make it into the tournament. The only other skater that proved capable of winning the title before was Claudia Pechstein (GER).
Karolina Erbanová (CZE) won the 500m for the fourth year in a row although she is just twenty years old. She brought the Championships Record down to 38.72. Two pairs before her, Yekaterina Lobysheva (RUS) lowered her own Championship Record from 39.24 to 38.98. She took second place, and third was 17-year-old Antoinette de Jong (NED) in 39.42, which was a Personal Best.
Wüst finished in 39.69 and fourth. Pechstein lost with 40.01 her pair to Linda de Vries (39.98) but both were happy with their time unlike Sáblíková after her 500m with a sixteenth place in 40.95. But she has been fourteenth before on the 500m and still won the title then. There was a National Record for Belgian Jelena Peeters, 41.27 and also Personal Bests for Francesca Lollobrigida (ITA) 41.02 and Olga Graf, 40.26. Erbanová: This was my main goal. I know that Lobysheva could be fast, so it did not bother me. I am more a sprinter, and have to try to get well through the 3000m.
In the 3000m there were Personal Bests for Lollobrigida, 4:16.82 and Linda de Vries, 4:05.33. De Vries was paired with Sábliková, and started boldly, leading most of the race; however, Sábliková managed to pass her in the last lap and posted 4:03.68, not bad for someone with back problems. After her race, she could not stand straight, but remained in skating position until her coach could get to her and helped her to lay down. Wüst had started right after her main rival. She had the second time one of the best races of her ever in Heerenveen, 4:01.25, the winning time. It was also a new Championships Record, the old one was Sábliková's time of 2008. Nobody else was faster, De Vries kept her third place, Valkenburg was fourth. Pechstein did not have a good race and finished ninth in 4:09.67. Making the last distance required a good 1500m. She explained that she had not found her rhythm. Wüst said she had been angry about a poor 500m and that she had used her anger to attack the 3000m properly. I could make extra speed in the fourth lap, just as I had done in the Turin Olympics. The old Wüst is back. Because of illness I often could not show what I'm capable of.
After this day, Wüst was leading with 79.898 points; Antoinette de Jong was second with 80.666, followed by the other two Dutch ladies, De Vries and Valkenburg. Fifth was Ida Njåtun (NOR), then Lobysheva, Sábliková and Pechstein.
In the 1500m Ladies there were Personal Bests for Lollobrigida, which helped her qualify for the World Allround Championships, and for De Jong, who nevertheless dropped two places in the ranking. She was passed by De Vries and Valkenburg, who were second and third on that distance. Wüst won in 1:56.39, a Championships Record. De Vries managed to increase her lead over Valkenburg with 1:57.57 against 1:57.76: an all-Dutch podium for this distance. Sábliková set 1:58.68 but again considered to withdraw. I asked my coach if I could quit. But my brother said that I should skate for fun, if I could skate at all. That there were so many fans and people cheering for me helped me to decide to continue.
Thanks to her sixth place on the distance, Pechstein managed to qualify for the 5000m after all. Besides the four Dutch ladies and Sáblikova, Njåtun, fourth in the 1500m, Pechstein and Lobysheva qualified, and Graf seemed to be the victim of the new ˜only-8-skaters' rule for the last distance. To her relief, Lobysheva withdrew so Graf could skate.
Graf managed to overtake Pechstein in the first pair on the final 5000m and finished sixth overall in a Russian Record with points of 164.436. She also overtook Ida Njåtun, had to let Sábliková go ahead soon in her race. Sábliková was happy to be able to win at least this distance in a strong 6:57.16. It gave her 162.839 points, and that was enough to climb to fourth place overall, as Antoinette de Jong lost her advantage on the defending champion in spite of improving her Personal Best by eight seconds to 7:08.52, finishing in fifth. Valkenburg reached 7:05.56, which should have been enough for silver, had not Linda de Vries in her race with Ireen Wüst improved her own Personal Best to 7:02.77. Still, De Vries lost the race to Wüst, whose 7:01.95 brought her silver in that distance and the title for the second time in her career. De Vries' bronze on both long distances and the silver on the 1500m brought her the overall silver. For the first time in history, there was an all-Dutch podium in an international Championship.
Wüst: I had to put something straigth. When I got ill at the beginning of the season doubt struck. I was not sure what my body could handle. To be back on the level that I had in 2007 is very satisfying. Finally, my body does what my head wants. And be sure I want the double, next month in Hamar!