Heerenveen / Netherlands

Pavel Kulizhnikov (RUS) became the youngest skater with ten career World Cup victories to his name, when he won the 500m on the second day of the Sprint World Cup in Heerenveen. The Russian rocket (20 years and 294 days old) replaced Dan Jansen on top of this list. The American sprinter was 21 years and 172 days old when he took his 10th World Cup gold. Judith Hesse (GER) won the Ladies’ 500m. Brittany Bowe (USA) and Kjeld Nuis (NED) took gold in the 1000m.

This World Cup was a qualifying event for the World Sprint Championships in Astana (KAZ) at the end of this month. Qualified for the World Sprints in the men’s field are three skaters from NED, USA, RUS, CHN, CAN, GER; two from KAZ, NOR, FIN, ITA, KOR and JPN, one from POL and from AUS. Qualified in the ladies’ field are three skaters from NED, CHN, USA, RUS, CAN, JPN; two from NOR, GER, BLR, KOR and one from CZE, AUT, KAZ, POL, FIN and ITA. Nobody improved a personal best.

Hesse (GER) wins her first World Cup race in 500m
Sunday’s Ladies’ 500m had three different skaters on the podium than on Saturday. Heather Richardson (USA), who won the first 500m, took a day of rest in preparation for the World Single Distances Championships and her compatriot Brittany Bowe, who took the bronze on Saturday, decided to skip the 500m on Sunday. Saturday’s silver medallist Nao Kodaira (JPN) finished seventh after Sang-Hwa Lee (KOR) defeated her in the final pair on Sunday. It was Kodaira’s worst result of the season.

Lee set 38.21 and came two hundredths short to keep Judith Hesse (GER) off the gold. Hesse, with 32 years the oldest competitor in the Ladies’ field, took her first win in her 111th World Cup start in the 500m. Thijsje Oenema (NED) took bronze in 38.23, just an inch ahead of Karolina Erbanová (CZE), who ended up fourth with 38.24.

Lee leads the World Cup ranking with 880 points, Kodaira is second with 730, Hesse (GER) got back in third place with 499 points, and Richardson dropped to fifth behind Margot Boer (NED).

Bowe wins her second 1000m this season.
World record holder Brittany Bowe was the fastest in a diminished 1000m field on Sunday. Like Richardson some other skaters, amongst whom Ireen Wüst, took rest with the World Single Distances Championships coming up. A record low amount of six pairs started for the second 1000m. After Saturday’s 1:15.38, which got her silver, Bowe only needed 1:15.63 for gold on Sunday.

Margot Boer (NED) skated the first sub-1:17 with 1:16.93 in the second pair. She lead the pack with three pairs to go, but was beaten by Laurine van Riessen (NED) in the fourth pair. Van Riessen finished in 1:16.89, mainly thanks to a sub-18 opener. In the penultimate pair Karolina Erbanová opened 0.7 faster, and gained on Van Riessen in her 27.7 first lap as well. She also had a gap on her pair mate Marrit Leenstra (NED), who opened 18.15 and had a 27.9 lap. However, in the final lap Leenstra fought back with 29.6 to beat Erbanová, who finished with a 30.3 lap. Leenstra stopped the clock at 1:15.75 and Erbanová had to settle for 1:15.98.

Brittany Bowe opened similar to Leenstra in her race against World Cup leader Qishi Li (CHN). Like Leenstra Bowe continued with a 27.9 lap, only to make a little difference with 29.5 in the final lap. Li  usually makes up for a slow opening in the full laps, but after 18.6 in the first 200 metres she was not able to skate faster laps than Leenstra. With 1:16.28 the Chinese lady ended up in fourth place.

Li still leads the World Cup with 440 points, Leenstra is second with 401, Bowe passed Erbanová and Richardson and to take the third place with 360 points.

Kulizhnikov strikes again in 500m
Fresh father  Jamie Gregg (CAN) set the mark with 35.16 in the second pair of the men’s 500m. It got him eighth place in his first international appearance this season. In the eighth pair 2010 Olympic Champion Tae-Bum Mo showed he is growing back in shape with the fastest opener and a 25.3 lap, to finish in 34.94.

Neither reigining Olympic Champion Michel Mulder (NED), nor Laurent Dubreuil (CAN), Ruslan Murashov (RUS), and Artus Was were able to beat the 35-second barrier in the ninth and tenth pair, before Pavel Kulizhnikov and Nico Ihle (GER) took the ice in the final pair. Kulizhnikov opened in 9.69 versus 9.76 for Ihle, who set 35.06 after a 25.3 lap. Kulizhnikov took advantage after a good outer turn and reeled Ihle in with 34.62 after a 34.9 lap.

Murashov (RUS) finished fourth with 35:12 and Mulder fifth in 35:14, while Roman Krech (KAZ) and Laurent Dubreuil (CAN) shared sixth place with 35.15(2). Yesterday’s silver medallist Was ended up in a disappointing ninth place with 35.25.

Jan Smeekens (NED) withdrew due to illness after his disappointing 17th place on Saturday.

Kulizhnikov increased his lead in the World Cup to 780 points, Dubreuil retained second place with 561, while Mo passed Was and Smeekens, to take rank three with 495 points.

Nuis beats Kulizhnikov after photo-finish in 1000m
Three skaters had a time below 1:10 when Olympic Champion Stefan Groothuis (NED) entered the rink in the seventh pair of the 1000m. He opened in 16.72 and went on with 25.5 and 27.1 laps to take the lead with 1:09.38.

In the penultimate pair Ihle, who had gathered three bronze medals in the previous three events this weekend, chased Groothuis’ mark. The German took on world record holder Shani Davis (USA) and became a prey to chase. He opened in 16.53 versus 16.89 for Davis. The American got closer with a 25.6 and a 27.0 lap, but Ihle’s 27.1 in the final lap was just enough to stay out of Davis’ reach. The German set 1:09.50 and Davis 1:09.52. It eventually brought them to rank four and five, because Kjeld Nuis (NED) and Kulizhnikov were a class of their own in the final pair.

The Dutchman and the Russian both opened slower than on Saturday, with a Nuis taking a slight advantage. Kulizhnikov took the lead with a first lap of 25.2 versus 25.4 for Nuis, who started in the inner lane and had more trouble accelerating in the narrower second turn. He tried to reel Kulizhnikov back in and succeeded to come out of the last inner with an advantage. However, the Russian had something left in the tank and came side by side with the Dutchman. Both clocks stopped at 1:08.82, but soon the time of Nuis was corrected to 1:08.81. The finish photo showed that Nuis was indeed the rightful winner. Nuis’ final 26.8 lap was the fastest of the day.

Kulizhnikov leads the World Cup standings with 510 points. Nuis is second with 451, Ihle moved up to third with 326.

Kulizhnikov and Wüst lead the Grand World Cup with only the Final to go.