Hamar / Norway

Seung-Hoon Lee (KOR) secured the mass-start World Cup, when he grabbed his third World Cup gold in this event on the final day of the World Cup in Hamar on Sunday. Irene Schouten (NED) took the ladies’ mass start victory, while Martina Sáblikova (CZE) won the 3000m and Denis Yuskov (RUS) the 1500m. The races did not alter the top of the Grand World Cup ranking with Pavel Kulizhnikov (RUS) and Ireen Wüst (NED) still in the lead.

The Hamar weekend was historic in another respect, because for the first time in history a World Cup weekend determined the quota for the World Allround Championships, which will take place in Calgary in March. A top-24 with a maximum of 3 skaters per country qualified, with 8 places for ladies and 11 for men pre-qualified.

In the ladies field, the spots are for 3 skaters from NED, GER, RUS, JPN, POL, 2 from CHN, 1 for CAN, CZE, USA, NOR, KOR, ITA, BLR.

In the men’s field the spots are for 3 skaters from NED, NOR, POL, RUS, GER, 2 for CAN, KOR, 1 for BEL, FRA, LAT, ITA, AUT.

Marina Zuyeva (BLR) secured a spot and she will be the first Belarussian lady to enter a World Allround Championships tournament since 1996, when Olga Klyga finished 24th. In Hamar Zuyeva improved the Belarussian record in the 3000m to 4:12.96, finishing second in the B-division. In total six ladies and four men improved their personal best times on Sunday.

Lonely Czech beats five Dutch ladies in 3000m
With World Allround Championships tickets at stake in a combined ranking over two distances, some skaters fought for country places, and skaters from stronger countries even had to battle amongst compatriots for individual qualification. In the Ladies’ 3000m Carlijn Achtereekte, Marije Joling, Diane Valkenburg and Jorien Voorhuis (NED) fought for the last Dutch ticket to join Ireen Wüst and Linda de Vries to Calgary.

After Heather Richardson (USA) won the 3000m in the B-division in 4:09.46, to earn the sole US spot for the World Allrounds, Achtereekte (NED) skated 4:05.12 in the fourth pair of the A-Division. Valkenburg and Voorhuis were both faster than Richardson as well, but they didn’t manage to beat Achtereekte for the World Allrounds ticket. Joling needed to skate faster than 4:06.73 to qualify and she kept Achtereekte in suspense until her very last metres. Eventually Joling managed to hold on to a 0.03 advantage with 4:06.70 and she will accompany Wüst and De Vries to Calgary.

The final pair featured another battle between Wüst and Sábliková. After having lost twice in a row against Sábliková, Wüst started fast. In the last two laps however, she could not keep her pace and dropped to 4:05.20, behind Achtereekte who took the silver medal. Sábliková managed to stay on 32 laps to finish in 4:03.68. Behind the Czech winner five Dutch ladies occupied the places 2-6 with Achtereekte and Wüst on the podium, followed by Joling, Voorhuis and Valkenburg, ahead of Olga Graf (RUS), Claudia Pechstein (GER) and Ida Njåtun (NOR).

Sábliková leads the World Cup with 430 points, Wüst has 350. Pechstein is third with 270. Ivanie Blondin (CAN) dropped to rank 6 after being disqualified. With one race remaining Sábliková and Wüst are the only two candidates left to win the 3000m World Cup.

Denis Yuskov impresses in 1500m
Denis Yuskov won the 1500m and showed he will be a force to reckon with in the World Allround Championships, having the best combination this weekend. The Russian opened 23.9, and skated laps of 26.1, 26.9 and 28.0 to reach 1:45.07 in the second pair of the A-division.

In pair four and five Harald Silovs (LAT) and Thomas Krol (NED) set 1:46.60 and 1:46.59. They were second and third when Denny Morrison (CAN) and Shani Davis (USA) took the ice in pair eight. Morrison opened 23.80 and set laps of 25.8, 27.3 and 29.0 to finish in 1:46.03. Davis had to settle for 1:46.80 behind Silovs.

In the penultimate pair Sverre Lunde Pedersen (NOR) finished in 1:46.64 to take sixth place between Silovs and Davis. Lunde Pedersen had no help whatsoever of his pair mate Wouter Olde Heuvel (NED), who did not seem fit and lost the Dutch qualification battle for Calgary.

Jorrit Bergsma, who celebrated his 29th birthday, already missed the World Allrounds ticket with a poor 1500m race in the B-Division. Douwe de Vries (NED) finished second in the B-division in 1:47.67 and took the third and final spot on the Dutch World Allrounds roster to join Sven Kramer NED) and Koen Verweij (NED) in Calgary.

In the final 1500m pair Kjeld Nuis (NED), who had won the first 1500m of the season, met Jan Szymanski (POL), who had won the last two. Nuis is a fast opener, whereas Szymanski counts on his stamina in the second part of the race. The different styles clashed, literally. Szymanski did not see the fast opening Nuis coming from the outer lane at the first cross-over. They touched each other when the Polish rider tried to cross in front of Nuis. Szymanski saw his mistake and straightened up to let the Dutchman pass. Nuis did not want a good start spoiled and continued the first full lap in 25.8 seconds. He continued with 27.2 and 29.0 to finish in 1:45.80, ahead of Morrison, but Yuskov’s time was well out of reach. Szymanski, knowing he would be disqualified, continued his race without forcing himself.

With Szymanski’s disqualification, Nuis took over the World Cup lead with 336 points. Lunde Pedersen moved up to second with 285 points. Behind them it is close; both Szymanski and Olde Heuvel both have 261 points, Morrison has 259 and Davis 255. With 150 points remaining for the winner of the World Cup final, everything’s possible.

Dutch ladies strong in mass start
In the ladies’ mass start Irene Schouten (NED) and Ivanie Blondin (CAN) were the main contenders again. Blondin won twice this season and Schouten once, but Schouten managed to make that a draw.

In the final laps Blondin positioned herself right behind Schouten in preparation for the sprint, whereas Schouten was paced by compatriot Mariska Huisman. Another dangerous skater in the final sprint, Bo-Reum Kim (KOR) crashed in the final lap. Schouten managed to stay ahead of Blondin in the sprint and Huisman finished third.

The skaters who had won the intermediate sprints, Miho Takagi (JPN), Pechstein and Zuyeva (BLR) finished fourth, fifth and sixth. Blondin still has a 10 point lead over Schouten in the World Cup ranking, with 430 over 420. Sábliková, who did not start in this race, is third with 255 and Pechstein has 213. With one race remaining, the battle for the World Cup will be only between Blondin and Schouten in Erfurt.

Seung-Hoon Lee (KOR) takes the World Cup mass start
Seung-Hoon Lee won the men’s mass start in the final sprint after an exciting race. In the final straight Lee overtook Marco Weber (GER), who had escaped from the pack. Weber managed to cross the line in front of Bart Swings (BEL) to secure silver. Swings had taken the second intermediate sprint and ended up in third place.

After Weber escaped in the last four laps, Heerenveen winner Bergsma unluckily was taken down when his teammate Arjan Stroetinga crashed. Andrea Giovannini (ITA), second in the ranking, took 8 sprint points that brought him to rank 4, Armin Hager (AUT), who took the first sprint, took fifth place.

Lee’s lead in the World Cup is clear with 450 points and Giovannini follows with 286. Swings is third with 237, ahead of Cheol-Min Kim, Silovs and Bergsma. Lee cannot be overtaken anymore and has already won the 2015 mass start World Cup.