Seoul / Republic of Korea

Brittany Bowe (USA) and Pavel Kulizhnikov (RUS) successfully defended their World Sprint titles at the 47th World Sprint Championships in Seoul. After a challenging first day they both made their mark with a superb 500m on the final day of the tournament. On the ice of the Taenung icerink the times were not fast enough for personal best times; only Hege Bøkko improved the Norwegian record in the sprint combination (to 156.855).

Bowe superb in 500m
Bowe laid the foundation of her second World Sprint title with a superior second 500m. Starting the day as number three in the classification the defending champion blew away the rest of the field with the only time below 38 seconds in 37.86. She took a firm lead in the ranking and had only Heather Richardson-Bergsma (USA) to fear in the final 1000m.

Richardson went into day 2 as classification leader and her 500m on Sunday (38.20) was 0.04 faster than her race on Saturday, but it was not enough to stay ahead of Bowe. She had to make up 0.35 seconds in the final 1000m to beat Bowe for the title.

Jorien ter Mors (NED) was second after day 1, but she lost her title chances in Sunday’s 500m. The  Dutchwoman stopped the clock at 38.58 (8) and dropped to third place in the ranking. She was 1.42 seconds behind in the 1000m.

Canada’s Heather McLean was third in the 500m with a strong 38.15.

“Everything happens for a reason”
Jorien ter Mors had won the 1000m in a track record time of 1:15.09 on Saturday. She knew that the world title was out of reach when she started this distance on Sunday, but she still had a bronze medal to skate for. With 1:15.35 she was the first to beat the 1:16 barrier and with only one pair to go she was sure of the bronze. Ter Mors’ pair mate and compatriot Marrit Leenstra finished fourth in the 1000m with 1:16.17, which was good enough to end up fourth in the final classification too.

In the last pair Bowe had the fastest opening with 17.84, but Richardson had to attack and with 45.67 she led at the 600m point. Bowe sealed her second world title with 29.4 in the final lap. With 1:15.28 she also managed to beat Ter Mors and win Sunday’s 1000m. Richardson finished in 1:15.64 to take third place in the distance and silver in the tournament. 

After having won the title with four distance victories last year, Bowe became the first female skater to win successive World Sprint Championships since Monique Garbrecht (GER) won three in a row between 1999 and 2001.

Bowe’s title did not come easy. “I was unfortunate to be challenged with a little illness this week, but each day has gotten a little bit better, significantly from yesterday to today. It’s a mental game and I had to stay strong I wanted to give myself a chance to win in those races yesterday,” said Bowe. She added: “I’m just thankful that the competition started on Saturday and not Friday. Everything happens for a reason. People are facing challenges every day and they are made to be overcome.”

Kulizhnikov strikes in 500m
Pavel Kulizhnikov had been dealt a blow by Kjeld Nuis (NED) in Saturday’s 500m and was determined to hit back at the 500m on Sunday. The Russian started in the inner lane and was able to chase Nuis down at the crossing. Kulizhnikov opened 9.68 versus 9.95 for Nuis and he left no room for doubt when he passed Nuis even before entering the final inner turn. The clock stopped at another track record in 34.63. Kulizhnikov was the only one to beat the 35 second barrier on Sunday. Nuis finished in 35.52 and ended up 16th in the distance. The Dutchman knew then that the title was out of reach.

Behind Kulizhnikov his compatriot Ruslan Murashov (RUS) and 35.06 and Finland’s Mika Poutala (35.10) ended up second and third in Sunday’s 500m. In the classification the gap between the defending champion and the rest of the field was 2.10 seconds.

Kai Verbij, who was sixth in the 500m with 35.21, entered the final 1000m ranked second. Poutala was only 0.11 seconds behind Verbij in third place. Behind them Nuis, Tae-Yun Kim (KOR) and Nico Ihle (GER) were all still in contention for a medal. The five men behind Kulizhnikov were only 0.22 seconds apart.

Tight battle for silver
Tae-Yun Kim was the first of the contenders for the podium to take the ice in the 1000m. He stopped the clock at 1:10.37 and was ranked first at the time. In the next pair Nuis exploded for another track record. After Saturday’s 1:09.28 the Dutchman shaved another 0.19 of the record to finish in 1:09.09, thanks to an impressive 26.7 last lap.

Ihle and Poutala were due up next in the penultimate race and Ihle crushed the Korean podium dreams, when he surpassed Kim with 1:10.27 to finish sixth in this 1000m. Ihle himself fell behind the final podium after Verbij skated 1:10.09 in the final pair versus Kulizhnikov.

The defending champion finished the tournament with both hands on his back in the final two strokes of the 1000m. He stopped the clock at 1:09.84, not enough to beat Nuis in the distance but more than sufficient to win the title. Nuis took silver and Verbij bronze. Ihle, Kim and Poutala had to settle for fourth, fifth and sixth place respectively.

Shani Davis (USA) reached 1:09.95 to take third place behind Nuis in the 1000m. The 2009 world sprint champion was not strong enough in both 500m races to even dream about the podium however. He ended up 13th in the classification.

Kulizhnikov became the eighth man to retain his World Sprint title following Eric Heiden (USA), Igor Zhelezovskii (URS/BLR), Sergei Klevchenya (RUS), Jeremy Wotherspoon (CAN), Erben Wennemars (NED), Kyu-Hyuk Lee (KOR) and Michel Mulder (NED). He is the second Russian male speed-skater to have won the World Sprint Title, after Klevchenya.

Two weeks ago Kulizhnikov became the first man to win the 500m and 1000m at the same World Single Distances Championships. “\It was hard to recharge and prepare myself again,” he said in Seoul. “Two 500ms and two 1000m races was hard, as I am no longer in the same shape and condition as in Kolomna. It was a psychological battle with myself, not with others, because at this moment there are no people who can beat me if I reach the finish.”