Berlin / Germany

On the last day of the Essent ISU World Cup in 2013 Heather Richardson (USA) showed great form again in bettering the 1000m track record with a time of 1:14.51 and the Olympic champions in the Team Pursuit had to fight for Olympic qualification. There was one personal best time.

Men’s 500m

Many different skaters were in contention for the 500m. The first good time was registered by Pekka Koskela (FIN), in 35.15. In pair seven, Joji Kato (JPN) was the first below 35 with 34.87 following a very strong last turn. Jesper Hospes (NED) in pair eight posted a creditable 35.04. In pair nine, Keiichiro Nagashima (JPN) with 35.01, briefly took second place before Tae-Bum Mo (KOR) and Michel Mulder (NED) skated the final pair – together again after they shared gold and silver twice this weekend. Mulder had won the first 500m, Mo the 1000m, with the other runner-up in each case. Both started alike, with 9.66, but then Mulder skated the first turn in too much of a hurry and lost to Mo. The Korean won the race in 34.87, 0.002 faster than Kato. Mulder’s 34.87 brought him third place. Mo is the eighth different winner in eight competitions. Nagashima won twice, but once gold was shared between Kato and Gilmore Junio (CAN). Mo leads with 527 points, ahead of Mulder (458) and Nagashima (414).

Ladies’ 1000m

The 1000m for Ladies had to do without former world record holder Christine Nesbitt (CAN) who went home with physical problems. Marrit Leenstra (NED), returning to racing after her withdrawal due to flu in the first competition, reached 1:15.85 in the first pair. Only the skaters from the last two pairs were faster. First, in a tight race, Olga Fatkulina (RUS) took on Lotte van Beek (NED). Van Beek had a 9.2 last lap, almost managing to overtake the world champion, but the Russian took the pair in 1:15.49, with Van Beek timed at 1:15.53. But the last pair brought the fireworks. World record holder Brittany Bowe saw her friend Heather Richardson (USA) sprint away from the start and, with laps of 27.4 and 29.3 after a 17.68, finish in a new track record of 1:14.51 (shaving more than half a second off the previous best of 1:15.04). Bowe finished almost a second behind her, but her 1:15.42 was just enough to be the best of the rest. Richardson can prepare to defend her World Sprints title knowing she leads the 1000m World Cup with 380 points. Her team-mate Bowe is second with 330, with Fatkulina trailing with 250 points.

Men’s 5000m

Sven Kramer had won all the long distances so far this season, but he is not in Berlin, opening the way for others. His fresh team-mate Douwe de Vries (NED) was the first below 6:20 with 6:18.64 and the next was Kramer’s former team-mate Jan Blokhuijsen (NED), now training with another coach. Blokhuijsen managed to keep his lap times pretty even; only his last lap was 30.6. It brought him to 6:15.66. Russian Ivan Skobrev just missed De Vries’s time by 0.02, but Belgian Bart Swings was 0.02 faster than De Vries and still had the podium in view at that point. In the final pair Seung-Hoon Lee (KOR) battled Jorrit Bergsma (NED) and at the halfway point Bergsma was just inside Blokhuijsen’s time and three seconds faster than Lee. But in the last four laps, Lee fought back, skating about half a second faster each lap, which made for an exciting finish. Bergsma held out and managed to beat Blokhuijsen’s time, finishing in 6:14.82. On the last lap Lee could not keep to 29 pace. That is where he lost out to Blokhuijsen, who finished in second place. Lee was third with 6:16.12. Kramer still leads with 300 points, but Bergsma overhauled Lee in the rankings with 250 points. Lee has 230, then comes Swings with 170.

Ladies’ Team Pursuit

The six highest-ranked teams after Berlin qualify for Olympic participation and with them the teams skating the two fastest times outside the top six. The German Ladies, Olympic Champions in 2010, needed to move up in the rankings or skate faster than 2:59.47, the qualifying time set by Norway, to participate. But the diversity in the German team did not make easy for them and the fell short in their mission; their 3:05.86 left them in ninth place. The Dutch Ladies won again with Ireen Wüst, Jorien ter Mors and Marrit Leenstra, in 2:58.19. In second place finished the Polish team, with many supporters in the stands. The 2010 Olympic bronze medallists Katarzyna Bachleda-Curus, Luiza Zlotkowska and Natalia Czerwonka reached 3:01.18. Korea, with Seon-Yeong Noh, Bo-Reum Kim and Shin-Young Yang, was third in 3:02.04. The Netherlands leads the World Cup with 300 points, ahead of Poland with 195 and Canada with 190. The other teams who qualified for Sochi are from Japan, Korea, Russia, USA and Norway.

Richardson also leads the Grand World Cup, the ranking over all distances, with 53 points ahead of Bowe with 43 and Sang-Hwa Lee (KOR) with 41. The Men’s Grand World Cup leader is Shani Davis (USA) with 53 points, followed by Koen Verweij and Sven Kramer (both NED) who have 35 and 30 points.

There will now be a break in the World Cups. In January European and World Sprint Championships will be held, in February the Olympic Games, and the World Cups will conclude on 7-9 March, at Inzell in southern Germany, and then a week later in Heerenveen (NED).