Heerenveen / Netherlands

Brittany Bowe (USA) and Denis Yuskov (RUS) impressed with lowland world records on the second day of the World Single Distance Championships in Heerenveen’s Thialf stadium. Martina Sábliková added another title to her string of victories in the 5000m and the Dutch men won the team pursuit for the seventh out of eight times. Track records fell in the 1000m for ladies and the 1500m for men. Austrian youngster Vanessa Bittner improved the track record for juniors and five skaters set personal best times.

Brittany Bowe (USA) takes 1000m gold
Brittany Bowe took the ladies’ 1000m title with a staggering 1:13.90, a world record for lowland, compatriot Heather Richardson held the previous record, which she set in Milwaukee (1:14.0). Richardson was the first to skate a track record in Heerenveen on Friday.

When three skaters improved their personal best times in the first three races, it was clear that the conditions were very good. Kali Christ (CAN) was the first skater to set a time below 1:16 in 1:15.74, with which she would end up sixth.

Richardson raced first of the favourites. She didn’t seem distracted too much by a false start and skated laps of 27.3 and 29.3, to set 1:14.49.  Bowe started in the next pair and with 17.96 she opened slower than Richardson. However Bowe kept accelerating and her first lap was a rare 27.1. She pulled through in the final lap (28.8) to finish in 1:13.90.

Marrit Leenstra (NED), who has a personal best of 1:13.88 on the high altitude track of Salt Lake City, knew that gold or silver was out of reach. She went for the bronze, but with 1:15.84 she had to settle for 7th place instead. Her pair mate Qishi Li skated 1:15.65 to end up fifth.

In the final pair Ireen Wüst (NED), had just lost her track record, faced her training partner Karolina Erbanová (CZE). Erbanová attacked from the start and opened faster than the Americans: 17.69. Wüst only managed 18.38. Erbanová even crossed in front at the first crossover and Wüst never recovered although she managed a fast 29.0 final lap. Erbanová’s laptimes were 27.5 and 30.0 to take bronze in 1:15.26. Wüst finished fourth in 1:15.50.

Bowe said: “I focussed on this race all season. I had a good opener, and knew I had a lot of speed. I simply basic focussed on sitting low, pushing well. And the hard work brought me my first world title. One goal off the mark. I do miss Heather as a team mate, competitor and friend, but today I am happy I came out on top. I’m looking forward to the 500 and 1500m.”

Richardson said: “She (Bowe) had a fast race today. With 1:14.49 I cannot complain. I am glad it was enough for second. The false start at the beginning is something I regret, the opening could have been faster, but I am happy with any medal.”

Erbanová: “I am mentally strong as never before. I have never been in the last pair at this level. After the finish line I could not see my time on the board, but I saw a four next to Ireen’s time and realized I had bronze. I will remember this for the rest of my life.” On beating her teammate: “I knew I had to. We are friends off the ice, but at the start it’s a different story.”

Yuskov defies expectations in 1500m
Denis Yuskov (RUS) took the men‘s 1500m gold in superb fashion. In pair six out of twelve, he opened in 23.53, and went on with a 25.5, a 26.3 and a 27.8 lap to reach 1:43.36, which was more than a second below Shani Davis’ (USA) track record from 2009 (1:44.48).

Koen Verweij (NED) skated in the next pair and his 1:45.15 looked worse than it actually was after Yuskov’s explosion. Olympic Champion Zbigniew Bródka was not able to beat Verweij’s time, when he finished in 1:46.19, to end up sixth.

In the end Denny Morrison (CAN) was the only one who was able to beat Verweij. The Olympic bronze medallist, took the silver with 1:45.08. Shani Davis raced to rank four with 1:45.84 and Alexis Contin (FRA) had a good fifth place with 1:46.02.

Yuskov: “I expected 1:44. I was prepared for a good result, but not for 1:43. I am very happy that my name will be written in Thialf. It was so important for me to defend my title. I expect to attack the world record in Calgary next month and think I can do a 1:40 there. I also think that (Pavel) Kulizhnikov, with whom I train, can set a 33 there in the 500m.”

Morrison: “I am pretty happy. It was a personal best on this track. When I saw Yuskov I knew the ice was fast. I thought that if he could do that maybe a 1:42 was possible for me. It wasn’t, but I raced as if it was and that brought me to silver. After a longer time off this summer I started this season fresher and became gradually better.”

Verweij: “It is simply a good time, even my time. For the condition that I have [not as good as it should be] I skate pretty fast. Yuskov’s 1:43.3 is a ‘next level race’. It’s motivating. Hard work is necessary to reach that level, but I think it is possible, also for me.”

Tough competition can’t keep Sábliková off the gold in 5000m
Martina Sábliková (CZE) won the past six world championships and the past two Olympic gold medals in the 5000m. After she took the 3000m title from Wüst on Thursday, another gold in the 5000m seemed to be self-evident. However, in the second pair Carlijn Achtereekte (NED) shaved eight seconds off her personal best time. After a long series of 32 laps, she finished with four laps of 33.6 to reach 6:54.49.

Achtereekte set the bar high for Sábliková, who skated an even race, with lap times between 32.6 and 32.9. She made the difference in her final laps and finished with 32.4 in 6:52.73, the fifth time in Thialf ever.

After Sábliková Jorien Voorhuis (NED) and Claudia Pechstein (GER) made up the last pair. With her 42 years and 28 medals in the World Single Distance Championships, Pechstein is the most experienced skater in Heerenveen by far.  Just like Sábliková she started with laps between 32.6 and 32.9, with an occasional 33.1, and in the last five laps she managed to stay below 33.5 to reach the bronze in 6:56.53. Voorhuis noticed that the pace of Pechstein was too high and realized a medal was out of reach again. After a disappointing fourth place in the 3000m, this fourth place, 7:05.63 was less painful. She said: “Those three girls are way ahead of me.”

“It was a hard race”, Sábliková commented afterwards. “Carlijn skated very well with 6:54. I thought it would be hard, so I tried to keep all my laps under 33. I told myself not to push everything, you need it towards the end. I am very happy, the ice is good, it was perfect today. I like the Thialf atmosphere too much. I was not surprised about Achtereekte, she was already good earlier this year. It is more surprising that someone who is almost 43 years old is on the podium.”

Achtereekte said: “I knew I could go for second or third place. My coach Jillert Anema taught me to look beyond my personal best time. Step for step I get better. I will be in Calgary as a reserve and if I don’t race the World Allrounds, I want to participate in another competition to attack the Dutch record in the 5000m. That should be possible.”

Pechstein said: “I am so happy, it is beautiful to race here. Of course you feel your body when you get older, but I don’t care about my age. It is great to win a medal, nobody else my age would be able to do that.” Next year again? “Yes, next year and until I am eighty-two.”

Dutch men take seventh gold in Team Pursuit
The Dutch team, with Sven Kramer, Koen Verweij and Douwe de Vries, won the Team Pursuit for the seventh time in eight editions. The toughest competition came from Canada, who beat the Russians and posted 3:44.08 with Denny Morrison, Ted-Jan Bloemen and Jordan Belchos. The Dutch, paired with Korea, built a lead of about 2.5 seconds and took the title with 3:41.40. Korea finished in third in 3:44.96. Olympic bronze medallist Poland finished in sixth behind Russia and Italy.