Sven Kramer (NED) and Martina Sábliková (CZE) were crowned World Allround Speedskating Champions this Sunday at the Olympic Oval in Calgary, Canada.
Kramer grabbed a record seventh world allround title at the ISU World Allround Championships. Denis Yuskov (RUS) challenged the Dutchman in the 1500m, but Kramer settled things with a strong 10,000m. Sverre Lunde Pedersen (NOR) took the bronze. Never before, a Dutchman won the allround world title in Calgary.
For Sábliková it was her third career world title in the Ladies’ tournament. Ireen Wüst (NED) finished second and Ida Njåtun (NOR) won bronze to take the first Norwegian allround medal for ladies since the bronze of Bjørg Eva Jensen in 1980.
Although skaters said conditions were tough, there were three Championships records and a total of 66 personal best times were broken over the weekend, including 8 NRs for AUT (Bram Smallenbroek 6:31.33), BEL (Bart Swings 1:44.18 and 13:06.62), BLR (Marina Zueva 4:12.05), CZE (Sábliková 3:55.10), FRA (Alexis Contin, 13:04.80), HUN (Konrad Nágy 6:40.61), NOR (Njåtun, 1:52.71), while Leia Behlau improved the German Junior record in the 1500m.
Except Wüst, all skaters set a personal best in the big combination, of which 8 were NRs: Ladies: CZE, NOR, USA; Men: BEL, CAN, FRA, NED, POL.
Ida Njåtun drew first blood in the Ladies’ 1500m on Sunday. In pair 9 the 24-year-old Norwegian outskated Canada’s Kali Christ in the ninth pair to break her own Norwegian record of 1:54.09 by more than a second: 1:52.71. Njåtun opened in 26.1 and skated laps of 27.8 and 28.6 to finish with an astonishing final lap of 30.1.
Ireen Wüst took the ice in the penultimate pair. She had announced that she was going to give everything, but after a 25.8 opener she wasn’t able to keep up with Njåtun’s pace already in the first full lap. Wüst had to settle for 1:54.28. When she watched the final pair, the defending World Allround Champion knew that her campaign for a fifth consecutive title was lost.
The leader after the first day, Heather Richardson (USA), started flat-out in the 1500m and she was the only one to open below 25 seconds (24.71). She immediately built a big advantage over pair mate Sábliková, but the Czech long distance specialist kept her cool. When Richardson fell apart in the final 600 metres Sábliková was chasing her prey. The American eventually managed to stay ahead with 1:54.23 versus 1:54.55 for Sábliková.
Richardson settled for second place in the 1500m, but kept her lead in the general classification with a 5.77 lead over number two Sábliková going into the 5000m. Wüst was third, 0.93 seconds behind Sábliková, of whom Wüst knew that she is the better 5000m skater.
Wüst said after the 1500m: “First place is impossible now. I have to do my utmost to take a silver medal overall now.”
To take that silver medal she had to beat Richardson by more than 8.60 second in the 5000m. Njåtun didn’t dare to dream of the podium after three distances, although she had climbed up to fourth place with her 1500m win: “This was much more than I expected of myself”, she said.
Martina Sábliková didn’t leave anyone in doubt when she took the ice in the 5000m. She opened faster than pair mate Wüst and skated only laps of 32 after a first full lap of 31.8. With 6:51.21 Sábliková was the only lady to skate below 7 minutes and with 157.717 she set a new Czech record for the small combination (500m, 1500m, 3000m, 5000m). Wüst finished in 7:03.99, which was slower than compatriot Linda de Vries (7:03.43) in the first pair of the 5000m. De Vries finished second in the distance and Wüst third.
When Richardson and Njåtun started in the final pair, Sábliková was ranked first and Wüst second, with 159.278. Richardson, who had never skated a 5000m before, didn’t know what to expect, but she knew it was going to be tough to keep Sábliková and Wüst at bay. Njåtun had to beat Richardson with a 13.76 margin to overtake her in the final ranking.
Just like in her 1500m race, Richardson started fast. She was even faster than Sábliková after 600m and she took a big lead over Njåtun in the race. Pretty soon she found out that 5000m is a long way to go. Suffering from a jetlag and being inexperienced in the long distances she saw her lap times going up from 33 to 34, 35 and eventually even 38. Njåtun just kept steadily skating 33 laps to finish in 7:04.00, missing the 5000m podium by only 0.01 second but setting a Norwegian point record of 159.795 points. Richardson threw out her last bit of stamina to finish with a final lap in 36.0 in a personal best time of 7:20.27, reaching a US points record of 160.046, but she had to leave the bronze to Njåtun.
Sáblíková claimed her third career World Allround title five years after she last won it in 2010. Only Verné Lesche (FIN) won two titles in more years apart (1939-1947). Stenina (USR) also claimed her third and last title five years after her second (1961-1966).
Sáblíková said: “I tried to relax and have fun this weekend. My coach got ill, so I wanted to post a good result for him. “
Wüst was disappointed about losing her title. “It doesn’t feel good, but I can’t blame myself for any mistakes. I gave it all, but it just wasn’t good enough. I’m looking forward to a holiday in the sun now and first I want to sleep for three days. My season’s finished.”
Denis Yuskov focussed on his battle versus Sven Kramer in the final pair of the 1500m. The Russian title contender and 1500m World Champion started faster than his Dutch rival, but he seemed to hold back a little to make full use of his advantage having right of way coming from the outer lane at the first cross over. Kramer had to hold back, but Yuskov didn’t take full advantage. He struggled with his strokes in the corners but managed to keep his speed high. After a 23.6 opener he set laps of 25.5, 26.2 and 27.4 to end up with a winning 1:42.92 to take the lead in the classification after three distances.
Kramer was not satisfied with 1:44.18, which took him to the joint third place in the distance. Bart Swings set the exact same time a Kramer in the 1500m, a Belgian record time.
Kramer said: “It’s a pity. That crossover cost me at least 0.7 seconds. Of course he does it on purpose, but I would have done the same thing. I should have been smart enough to avoid it.
“My position is not too bad however”, Kramer added. He had to make up 7.30 seconds in the 10,000m to take a record seventh World Allround title.
Sverre Lunde Pedersen took silver in the 1500m. He skated in the penultimate pair versus Denny Morrison (CAN), who exploded for a 23.04 opener. Morrison kept the lead with a 24.9 and a 26.9 lap, but ran out of fuel in the final lap. Pedersen was 1.25 seconds behind after 1100m, but managed to beat Morrison with a 27.7 final lap, resulting in 1:43.99, while Morrison finished fifth in 1:44.35.
The top three in the classification seemed to be pretty sure of their podium spots after three distances, but Kramer and Yuskov had to fight a final battle for the colour of their medals and also Lunde Pedersen was pretty certain of at least bronze, 8 seconds behind Yuskov, but 11.08 seconds ahead of number four Morrison.
Kramer skated versus Lunde Pedersen in the penultimate pair of the 10,000m, and he had to set the bar for Yuskov, who took on Morrison in the final pair. After the 1500m Kramer had already said that he would not risk everything for a world record and he didn’t. However, Kramer still was the only one to skate lap times in the 30s for a greater part of his race. Pedersen was about half a second slower each lap and Kramer was the only one to finish below 13 minutes (12:56.69) with only one pair to go, even though his last laps were tough. Pedersen finished in 13:09.45 and did not have to worry about his bronze medal.
Yuskov had to skate below 13:04.00 to take the world title. He kept his schedule until 5200m, but his lap times quickly went up after that point. Kramer seemed relieved, but just when he thought the battle was over, Yuskov found some lost energy. After two laps of 32 and one of 33, he accelerated to laps of 31 again. It was too little too late. Yuskov couldn’t make up the lost time and finished in 13:12.49, which was at least enough to keep Lunde Pedersen behind him and take the silver.
Before the title contenders raced, Alexis Contin (FRA) and Bart Swings had skated the second and third 10,000m times of the day in the second pair, both in National record times. The Frenchman finished in 13:04.80 to take the distance silver and Swings celebrated a distance bronze with 13:06.62. It also gave them National point records and brought Swings to rank four and Contin to rank five in the final classification.
Kramer was happy with his record seventh World Allround title. “It was not as easy as it seemed. The conditions were tough this weekend. I’m happy to be champion again, but I’m not satisfied about my performance level yet.
“With each title it gets more difficult for others to break the record. I will concentrate on allround skating next year as well. After that I will focus more on single distances because of the Olympic Games.”
After several fourth places, Lunde Pedersen twittered: “Yes! At last my first championshipsmedal.”