Heerenveen / Netherlands

Sven Kramer (NED) won the 5000m with a lowland world record on the third day of the World Single Distance Championships in Heerenveen’s Thialf stadium. Heather Richardson (USA) became the first US champion in the 500m and Shani Davis took his fourth world title in the 1000m on a moment he least expected it. The Japanese ladies surprisingly beat the Dutch ladies in the Team Pursuit. Five skaters improved their personal best times.

Sven Kramer (NED) takes world title 5000m in new Track Record
The 5000m was a must win for Sven Kramer, because it was his only individual distance after he skipped the 10,000m. From 2007 onwards he has dominated the 5000m except in 2011, when he took a sabbatical and Bob de Jong (NED) won. Chad Hedrick (USA) is the only non-Dutch skater who won this title, twice.

Kramer’s main challenger Jorrit Bergsma skated in an earlier pair. When he took the ice Denis Yuskov (RUS), the fresh 1500m champion, held the fastest time with 6:19.74, but his lap times had fluctuated a bit. Alexis Contin (FRA) was the only skater who attacked Yuskov and he did well with high 29 laps. All of a sudden he threw in a 29.1 at 3000m and that cost him in the end. His laps went up and in the final lap of 31.5 he lost all of his advantage, finishing in 6:19.99.

Bergsma was a different class. He started on track record pace (6:10.37). After two 29.1 laps he managed four high 28 laps, and then back to 29. With two laps to go, he was still on schedule but the last two laps were low 30s and that cost him the record. Bergsma finished in 6:11.53, the fourth time ever skated in Thialf.

Right after Bergsma Douwe de Vries managed to beat Yuskov’s time with a flat race. He finished in 6:18.24. All his laps, after an initial 29.2, were between 29.7 and 30.2. It proved to be enough for bronze.

The double Olympic Champion and world record holder Kramer skated in the penultimate pair and took an advantage over Bergsma right from the start. However, he did not try four 28 laps and after one 28 lap he lost his advantage. After a 29.6 in the third lap he found his rhythm with laps between 29.0 and 29.92. Between 800 and 3400m he stayed just behind Bergsma, but then he managed to carry that speed into the final laps to secure the victory. His 6:09.65 was a new track record, a new championships record and a new world record for a lowland rink.

Kramer was excited: "A track record in Thialf feels like a world record. I’m super excited about this. It was a good race with only one tiny mistake, when I skated the third lap in 29.6.

“It’s great to win today. It’s the only day that the stadium is fully packed. Everyone has been looking forward to this and you can feel it on the ice.”

Jorrit Bergsma said: “This was a very good race, but I just wasn’t able to maintain my pace in the final laps. Still, it’s my best time ever here in Thialf.”

On Kramer, Bergsma said: “I think the two of us showed a great race today. I’m getting closer every time. Sven is the master of this distance. He’s got a lot of experience and that’s important. I’m raised as a marathon skater, but step-by-step I’m getting the hang of this.”

Douwe de Vries said: “This is a very good result for me. I’ve missed out on big tournaments many times before. You know that if you’re able to qualify in the Netherlands, you are able to compete for the medals.

“Sometimes I look at Sven Kramer and think, I wish I were able to do that. But not everybody is equally talented. Of course I’m talented to be a medal winner here, but I just had to train a bit longer for that.”

Heather Richardson (USA) takes world title 500m
In the first 500m for ladies Brittany Bowe was the first skater under 38, finishing in 37.997. She was paired with Thijsje Oenema (NED), whom she could chase. Oenema had opened in 10.460 and Bowe in 10.639. Just before the finish Bowe overtook the Dutch hope, who finished in 38.025. For the first time in history the times were presented in thousands of a second.

Richardson’s opening was between Bowe and Oenema (10.581), but her lap was faster and the clock stopped at 37.703. In the penultimate pair Nao Kodaira (JPN) came close to Oenema’s time, but just missed it. However, her 38.047 was a good starting point for the next race, when she would have last inner.

In the last pair Olympic champion, World Cup leader, world record holder and champion in the past two editions Sang-Hwa Lee came to the start. Lee is struggling with a knee-injury and she did not manage to be faster than 38.104, the fifth time.

In the second race, Lee beat Judith Hesse (GER) and pulled out a sub-38 time, 37.900, but it was not enough to reach the podium again. She finished fifth and Hesse sixth overall.

The battle for the bronze was between Oenema and Kodaira, who are teammates since Kodaira trains with the Dutch team. Oenema had a good race. 37.971 handed her the best combination she had ever skated on her home rink. However, again she narrowly lost her pair, this time Kodaira finished in 37.846 and with a total of 75.892 she was certain of a medal with only one pair to come.

In that final pair Richardson could take revenge on Bowe for the lost 1000m. Bowe had the faster opening this time, but Richardson managed a full lap of 26.99 to finish in 37.629, barely missing Jenny Wolf’s (GER) track record of 37.60. Bowe also skated faster than ever before in Thialf and could celebrate the silver after a 37.788.

Richardson: “I knew, since I won a couple this season, it was possible here. I wanted to open fast and see what I could do in the lap and that worked out for me today. Thankfully I was able to do two solid 500s. Brittany is fast also, like yesterday. We both want it. I had to forget about yesterday, today was a new day. We race each other all year, so we are used to that. It was a great day for the US with Shani also, he kept the momentum going. It was nice to see, I was really happy.”

Bowe: “I’m really happy for this medal. I peaked well. Nao (Kodaira) had a really fast time, but I had been working on my ranks in the 500 more, so I knew I could do it. Of course, Sang-Hwa Lee is fighting an injury and that is something I do not wish for anyone, so I hope she can be back in top shape.”

Kodaira: “I am content with how I skated and also with the third place. The American girls are very strong. I want to become stronger, too. I hope in the future I will succeed. This year has been challenging for me, in a different country, with a different language and way of training. It is true that I am faster than my Dutch training friends Margot Boer and Thijsje Oenema now. So they are a bit angry at me. Not really, just on the ice, not off the ice. Tomorrow I can skate my favourite distance, the 1500m.”

Emotional Davis nails it in 1000m
“I’ve never been happier”, said Shani Davis after winning the Men’s 1000m. The 32-year-old American, Olympic champion in this distance in 2006 and 2010, skated a very well balanced race against the 2014 Olympic Champion Stefan Groothuis (NED) in the tenth pair. With 16.8, 25.2 he was still behind Groothuis after 600m, but with 26.4 he set the fastest final lap of the field to record 1:08.57, and pushed Denny Morrison (CAN, 1:08.72) and Hein Otterspeer (NED, 1:08.88) down to silver and bronze medal position. Groothuis finished in 1:09.13, to end up sixth.

Davis admitted to have cried after the race. “I have never been so emotional after the race. I couldn’t believe it. I would have settled for the podium.

“I have been struggling all year I talked endlessly with all my coaches. The last two or three weeks I started to improve and today I was finally able to nail it.”

The two favorites Pavel Kulizhnikov (RUS) and Kjeld Nuis (NED) took the ice in the next two pairs. Kulizhnikov won three 1000m World Cup races this season and Nuis beat the Russian by a photo-finish margin in the World Cup in Heerenveen last weekend. Both of them started faster than anyone else and both skaters were still below Davis’ time at 600m, but they didn’t have an answer to Davis’ superb final lap. Kulizhnikov finished second in 1:08.61 and Nuis grabbed bronze from the last pair with 1:08.71.
Nuis was satisfied with his own race, but disappointed about the colour of his medal: “I skated a good race and I did not make any big mistakes, but I started to win the gold here of course.” The Dutchman admired 32-year-old winner Davis: “I had not written him off. Men with such a lot of experience can always come out on top.”

Kulizhnikov’s coach Dmitry Dorofeyev (RUS) was a little disappointed: “I did not expect Shani to win, because he was in the shadow this season. But he’s a two-time Olympic Champion and he’s a great person, so it’s okay to loose against him.”

Japanese ladies surprise in Team Pursuit
The Japanese ladies surprised the world and themselves when they took home gold in the team pursuit. Japan trained with their race line-up for the first time on Saturday morning. Ayaka Kikuchi, Nana Takagi skated many races for Japan before, but Nana’s younger sister Miho Takagi joined them for the first time. In a very flat race with only their final lap above 30 seconds they finished in 3:01.53 in the penultimate pair. Before the ice preparation break Russia had skated 3:03.19, which would take them to bronze.

The Netherlands were aiming to become the first team to win three consecutive Team Pursuit world titles, when they started in the final pair. They were on track record pace, but Marije Joling had dropped behind from the start and her struggle to come back cost too much energy. “Maybe we started a little too fast”, she said. “I’m extremely disappointed because I was the one to drop off.” With 3:01.55 the Dutch ladies had to settle for silver.

The Japanese ladies couldn’t believe their eyes. Nana Takagi said: “We never expected to win gold, but during the last two laps of the Netherlands we saw it happening.”

The Russian ladies were happy to take home bronze. Olga Graf (RUS), who finished 8th in the 3000m and 5th in the 5000m said: “I’m very disappointed about my personal results, but this medal compensates a little.” Natalya Voronina (RUS) skated her first World Single Distance Championships in Heerenveen: “I was very nervous and I still don’t realise that we just won a medal.”