Heerenveen / Netherlands

Brittany Bowe (USA) and Kjeld Nuis (NED) went home with the Grand World Cup at the World Cup Final in Heerenveen on Sunday. In the final Men’s 500m race Ronald Mulder grabbed the first Dutch season win in the shortest distance. Bowe took her fourth win of the weekend in the ladies’ 1000m, Denis Yuskov (RUS) added another gold to his row of 1500m medals and the season was concluded with two spectacular Mass Starts. Irene Schouten (NED) won the ladies’ event after crashing early in the race and Bart Swings (BEL) took the men’s gold. 

Mulder takes Dutch first of the season
“I’ll go into the summer on a high note”, Ronald Mulder said. The Dutchman finished the 500m in 34.81 to grab gold after his silver medal on Friday. He shaved 0.24 points off his time in the first 500m race this weekend. He said he knew that he could do better after Friday’s race: “My last corner was better and I was in a flow during the first 300m. I had to think of how to get into that corner because the speed was so high.”

Ruslan Murashov (RUS) was the only one who also beat the 35 second mark with 34.89. In absence of compatriot Pavel Kuliznikov a gold medal would have got him the 500m World Cup. With silver he collected 705 points to equal Kulizhnikov, who won more races this season and thus claimed the World Cup. “I think that I could beat Ronald if we started in the same pair,” Murashov said. “But I’m satisfied with my performance in Heerenveen.”

Mika Poutala (FIN) took the bronze medal. After having finished fourth on Friday, the Fin stopped the clock at 35.02 on Sunday. "I'm superhappy on how this season went,” he said. “Training with the Canadian team was good because at home we don't have ice, that was always my problem."

His team mate Gilmore Junio (CAN) finished fifth in 35.10 seconds to collect a total of 637 points and bronze in the 500m World Cup. "I'm so happy with the season. If someone had told me at the beginning of the year that I'd be third overall, I might have just laughed.

Four to four for Bowe
“Four to four in front of this crowd. I wouldn’t have ended the season in any other way,” Brittany Bowe (USA) was the strongest lady of the final World Cup weekend. After Jorien ter Mors had beaten her in the 1000m and the 1500m at the World Distances Championships in Kolomna, Bowe took revenge in Heerenveen. Ter Mors skated in the second 1000m pair on Sunday and clocked 1:14.44. When Bowe and Heather Richardson-Bergsma (USA) took the ice in the final pair no other skater had set a time below 1:15.

Richardson took the initiative against her compatriot, but Bowe was able to maintain more speed in the final lap to finish in 1:14.22.  Richardson finished third in 1:15.07.  “She skated really strong. I have to go back and work on some technical things”, Richardson said. “She’s a lot more solid than I am.”

Ter Mors also complimented Bowe for her outstanding performance in Heerenveen. “I skated well and I know that the American ladies lose it in the final lap often, but today Bowe was stronger. She is still in great shape. She has got something to win here [the Grand World Cup], which makes a difference in how you approach a weekend like this.”

Bowe was happy to have Ter Mors’ around as a rival: “Obviously I was disappointed about the World Championships, but that’s kept me hungry for next season,” she said. “And it’s awesome to add a new person, obviously everybody knows who Jorien is, onto the long-track circuit on a consistent basis into the equation, because it will raise the ladies’ level.”

Bowe took the 1500m World Cup with 710 points, well ahead of Richardson (508). Marrit Leenstra (NED), who came fourth in 1:15.38, took the bronze with 465 points.

Yuskov takes 1500m World Cup
Denis Yuskov (RUS) beat Kjeld Nuis (NED) in a man-to-man battle in the 1500m. Their race was not just about the day’s victory, it was about the 1500 World Cup too. “I knew that I had to beat Kjeld in the pair and that would be enough to win. I wasn't thinking  about the time, only about the ranking.” Yuskov finished in 1:45.39 versus 1:45.46 for Nuis. Yuskov did not think the 1500m World Cup was a close race this season. “Between me and Kjeld? Really? I forgot my transponder in Salt Lake City, that is why we were equal in points. Today I skated tactically. I knew I could be anywhere but should finish before Kjeld. I made a mistake in the opening, the ice was a bit damaged. I have that a lot, maybe I'm too strong. I'm very happy to win the Cup.”

Nuis was happy with his 1500m silver medal. “It was special to skate against Yuskov here in Thialf. We both started quite slow and in the final lap I really couldn’t keep up with him. That’s when I felt that I wouldn’t make it and that’s the moment that I also lost my technique a little. But this is my best season ever. To be her today on the podium with silver and gold confirms that I’m very stable. This Grand World Cup is my best prize of the season.”

Sverre Lunde Pedersen (NOR) finished third in the 1500m. He stopped the clock at 1:45.65. Joey Mantia, who finished seventh in 1:46.88, ended third in the 1500m World Cup with 405 points. Yuskov collected 530 and Nuis 456.

Schouten gets back up to win
The battle for World Cup gold in ladies Mass Start seemed to be over after four laps, when Irene Schouten (NED) crashed after a collision with her rival Ivanie Blondin (CAN). The Dutchwoman and the Canadian both had a déjà vu, because in last season’s World Cup final Blondin took the World Cup after a Schouten crash in the final race. This year was different however.

“I was really mad when I went down,” Schouten said. “But I knew I had to get up fast.” Carien Kleibeuker (NED) waited for her teammate and made pace for Schouten who managed to get back into the pack. “She did an outstanding job,” Schouten said. “After she brought me back I had a couple of laps to recover and Carien was still able to make pace in the final two laps to get me into a good position for the sprint.”

Miho Takagi (JPN) attacked going into the final lap. Blondin countered and Schouten jumped after them to beat the two in the final stretch. Blondin came second and Takagi third.

“Of course the crash was not intentional,” Blondin explained. “I got pushed from behind and we collided. It was a reminder of last year and this is not the way you want to win. In the end this race shows how much difference having teammates makes in a mass start.”

Schouten took the World Cup with 466 points, ahead of Blondin (420). Misaki Oshigiri (JPN), who finished fifth, took third place with 271 points. 

Swings confrims good season
Arjan Stroetinga (NED) had come to win the Men’s Mass Start World Cup. His teammate Jorrit Bergsma (NED) worked hard to wear all the others out and attacked several times. In the finale of the go Alexis Contin (FRA) tried to jump but Bart Swings (BEL) countered.

Bergsma tried another attack with two laps to go and again Swings managed to counter with Fabio Francolini (ITA) in his back. Stroetinga went along and the three went into the final turn to sprint for victory. “Of course you want to win, but I skated for the final classification and I thought, when I’m on the podium I’ll win anyhow,” Stroetinga said.

Swings won the sprint, Francolini came second and Stroetinga secured the World Cup with the bronze medal. “For me the most important thing is that I’m back this season”, Swings said. “Last year didn’t go well and I’ve proved that I’m still a good skater this year.”

Stroetinga won the World Cup with 404 points. Swings came second with 380 and Francolini third with 378.

The Heerenveen World Cup Final concluded the 2015/2016 speed skating season with a lap of honor for all medal winners in front of an enthusiastic Thialf crowd.