Kolomna / Russia

Pavel Kulizhnikov (RUS) crushed the 1000m track record to become the second Russian male speed skater winning  the 1000m world title after Sergey Klevchenya in 1996. The enthusiastic Russian crowd also cheered for world champions Sven Kramer (NED) in the Men’s 5000m, Sang-Hwa Lee (KOR) in the Ladies’ 500m, and the Dutch ladies in the Team Pursuit at the World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships 2016 in Kolomna on Saturday.

Kramer extends 5000m streak
Kramer won a record extending 17th world title when he took his seventh 5000m gold. The Dutchman edged out Jorrit Bergsma (NED) in an exciting 5000m competition with a spectacular climax. Behind the Dutch pair Sverre Lunde Pedersen (NOR) won the fierce battle for bronze.

The 5000m started with disappointment for Dmitry Babenko (KAZ), who aborted his race when he realized he had forgotten to change lanes at the crossover in the first pair with Yevgeny Seryaev (RUS). In the fifth pair Alexis Contin (FRA) skated 6:20.92 to set the best time before the ice preparation break, but the best was yet to come. Contin eventually qualified eighth.

After the break Peter Michael (NZL) started the fireworks in the seventh pair. The New-Zealander started his race as if it were a sprint with 27.7 in the first full lap. Kramer looked at the scoreboard with a smile in disbelieve. Michael’s pair mate Bart Swings (BEL) hung in despite a near-crash and managed to close the gap in the final laps, but Michael did not give in. The New-Zealander accelerated once more and even outsprinted Swings on the line. With 6:19.11 and 6:19.13 Michael and Swings qualified sixth and seventh respectively. 

Ted-Jan Bloemen (CAN) and Douwe de Vries (NED) were up next. De Vries did not seem to get into his rhythm and finished in a disappointing 6:21.49 for ninth place. Bloemen managed to beat Michael with 6:18.81, but the silver medal winner of Thursday’s 10,000m had to wait out two more pairs to discover his time was worth no more than 5th place in the 5000m.

Jorrit Bergsma (NED) did not start as fast as Michael, but he was the first to keep all lap times below 30 seconds in a balanced race. The Dutchman even managed to accelerate to finish his race with two laps in 28.8 and a 28.9 final lap. He clocked 6:10.66, just 0.04 above Kramer’s track record, while his pairmate Patrick Beckert (GER) also bettered the leading time, with 6:18.45. Kramer did not laugh anymore. “I knew I could skate 6:10 here, but I still had to show it”, he said.

The defending champion gradually built up a small advantage over Bergsma until the 3800m mark. He could not match his compatriot’s acceleration in the last three laps, but maintained a small margin, crossing the line in a track record time of 6:10.31. He did not think that having a target to aim at was of great advantage to him: “He [Bergsma] skated a very good race. The one who starts first has to set a super strong time and then starting last may even be more difficult.”

In Kramer’s slipstream Sverre Lunde Pedersen finished with 6:15.08 to take his second medal at the World Single Distances Championships after Saturday’s Team Pursuit silver in Kolomna.

Kulizhnikov delivers in front of home crowd
After having won four of six 1000m World Cup races this season Pavel Kulizhnikov put the jewel in the crown when he won the 1000m world title in front of over 6000 enthusiastic spectators in his home town. Denis Yuskov (RUS) took silver and Kjeld Nuis (NED) bronze.

Aged 21 years and 299 days, Kulizhnikov became the second-youngest speed skater to clinch the men’s 1000m world title after Trevor Marsicano (USA). Marsicano was 19 years and 342 days old when he won in 2009.

Starting in the 11th and penultimate pair Kulizhnikov left Dutchman Kai Verbij behind straight from the start. With 16.2 the Russian rocket clocked the fastest opener of the field. With 24.8 he was 0.3 faster than the fastest first full lap of compatriot Aleksey Yesin, and in the final lap he hung on with 27.2. His 1:08.33 was 0.20 faster than Denny Morrison’s (CAN) track record. Verbij finished seventh with 1:09.13.

Before Kulizhnikov took the ice his compatriot Yuskov had already taken Morrison’s 2009 track record. After winning his third consecutive 1500m world title on Friday, Yuskov took on the defending 1000m World Champion Shani Davis in the 10th pair. The American had a better opener and was still in the lead after 600m, but Yuskov had an unparalleled final lap in 26.0 to clock 1:08.43. Davis – with 26.7 the second-fastest last lap – finished fifth in 1:09.01.

At first sight Kulizhnikov was unimpressed with Yuskov’s result: “When I looked at the scoreboard, I thought it was not superfast. But when I came at the 600m point, I felt how tough it was and I started to respect his time more.” Kulizhnikov did not think he had won just yet. “My 1:08.33 was not very convincing”, he said.

Kjeld Nuis (NED) and Joey Mantia (USA) challenged the Russian in the final pair, but they both lost too much time in the first 600 meters to scare the Russian. Nuis gained time with 26.8 in the final lap, but he had to settle for third place in 1:08.47. Mantia couldn’t keep up with the fastest men in the final lap and finished 12th in 1:09.58.

Kolomna-born Aleksey Yesin finished fourth in 1:08.81. Nuis took little comfort in the fact that he managed to prevent an all-Russian podium in the Men’s 1000m. “I had a good inner turn passing Joey. Then you can only hope for number one behind your name when you look at the scoreboard, but it was three. That’s not what I skate for.”

Lee takes third 500m title
Sang-Hwa Lee recaptured the 500m world title after last year’s disappointing fifth place. Brittany Bowe (USA) took silver and Hong Zhang (CHN) bronze. Lee equaled Catriona Le May Doan (CAN) on three 500m world titles. Only Jenny Wolf (GER) has won more gold medals in this event (4).

Lee faced Zhang in the final pair of the first 500m run. Reigning world champion Heather Richardson-Bergsma (USA) had set the bar at 37.81, just 0.01 ahead of 1000m world champion Jorien ter Mors (NED).

Lee proved to be a class of her own. The Korean opened in 10.29, which was 0.20 faster than the second-best opener of Jing Yu (CHN), who had the eighth time in the first run with 38.00. Lee finished in 37.42 to break Jenny Wolf’s 2009 track record by 0.09.

Zhang set the second time in the first run with 37.78. The first six skaters behind Lee were all within 0.14 seconds after the first run. Brittany Bowe was the last in seventh place with 37.92.   

Richardson lost her 2015 world title when she skated 37.96 in the second run. Her total of 75.787 got her fifth place in the final ranking. Ter Mors was also slower in her second run with 37.90 to end up fourth with 75.728.

Ter Mors may have been distracted because of a restart after pair-mate Bowe was too eager to stand still in the first attempt. Bowe herself was far from disrupted however. The American lady finished in 37.74 for a total of 75.663 to take silver.

Lee once more proved her class with 37.43 in the second run to total 74.859. Zhang did not manage to defend her second place from the first run, finishing in 37.90 for bronze in 75.688.

Dutch Ladies back on top
After crashing out of the World Championships last year, the Netherlands faced the tough task of gaining rehabilitation in the Ladies’ Team Pursuit. World Champion Japan gave them something to cut their teeth in with 2:58.31 in the penultimate race of the day. Misaki Oshigiri, Miho Takagi and Nana Takagi defeated Russia. Olga Graf, Elizaveta Kazelina and Natalya Voronina finished in 3:02.61.

The Netherlands took on Poland in the final race. They left the Polish girls behind soon enough, but beating Japan wasn’t easy. Marrit Leenstra almost crashed in the final turn and so did the Polish team, who were aiming for bronze. While Antoinette de Jong and Ireen Wüst cruised to the finish line, Leenstra struggled to stay on her feet. She managed to reach the fine just in time to clock 2:58.12. Japan had to settle for silver and Russia took bronze, as Poland lost too much in the end and finished fifth with 3:03.77, behind Germany (3:02.94).