The second day of the ISU World Cup Speed Skating in Nagano’s M-wave stadium (JPN) saw both Heather Bergsma (USA) and Kjeld Nuis (NED) defend their victories in the Ladies’ and Men’s 1000 m respectively. Netherlands won both Team Pursuit races, while the Japanese home crowd could enjoy a victory in the Team Sprint for Ladies. Canada captured the Men’s Team Sprint. There were three personal best times, all in the Men’s 1000 m.
Bergsma wins the Ladies’ 1000 m
The three podium finishers were in a class of their own in the Ladies’ 1000 m. Heather Bergsma (USA) took the victory just like last weekend, followed by two Japanese skaters, Nao Kodaira and Miho Takagi.
Before the two final pairs, the lead was held by Olympic Champion Hong Zhang (CHN) in 1:16.04, ahead of Norway's much-improved Hege Bøkko who had 1:16.24, the same time as Ireen Wüst (NED). Kodaira then set the fastest opener of the day, followed by a 27.6 full lap. Her finishing time was 1:15.18, slightly behind her own rink record which stood at 1:15.08. A final lap of 29.8 is hardly weak, but she was almost caught by a fast-finishing Takagi who posted 1:15.32 with the fastest final lap of the day, 29.3.
Bergsma then followed, and took a clear lead over her pairmate Marrit Leenstra (NED) who was never close this time around despite her second place finish in Harbin last week. At the final bell Bergsma was 1/10th behind Kodaira, but a stronger final lap (29.4) brought her ahead not only of Kodaira in the race, but also of Kodaira’s rink record. The final time for Bergsma was 1:14.81.
Today's three top finishers also head the World Cup ranking, and in the same sequence: Bergsma leads with a maximum 200 points; Kodaira is second with 150 and Takagi third with 130. Leenstra, last week’s runner-up, finished in eighth place and dropped to fourth place in the World Cup ranking, with 116 points.
Repeat triumph also for Nuis
Bergsma was not the only repeat victor in the 1000 m; Kjeld Nuis also managed to defend his victory from last week's races in Harbin. Kai Verbij (NED) and Pavel Kulizhnikov (RUS) joined him on the podium.
In the fifth pair Joey Mantia (USA) had equaled the rink record of his compatriot Shani Davis, with 1:08.92, a time which withstood the attack of Nico Ihle (GER) who finished in 1:08.96. Kai Verbij was paired with Canada's Vincent De Haȋtre, and the early lead Verbij had captured, gave him a margin which held for the rest of the race. Verbij took the lead and the rink record with 1:08.58, the Canadian finished in 1:09.33.
In the penultimate pair Kulizhnikov posted split times very equivalent to those of Verbij, but had trouble in the last inner turn and had to settle for 1:08.80. This set the stage for the last pair, where Nuis met Mika Poutala (FIN), the surprising number two last week in Harbin. For the first 700 m this was a closely fought duel, with both skaters being close to but not quite equaling the split times of Verbij. On the final changeover Nuis could set his sight on the fading Finn, and a strong last lap of 26.7 brought him home in 1:08.46 – victory and a new rink record. Verbij made it a Dutch 1-2, while Kulizhnikov edged out Mantia from the podium.
The Men's 1000 m brought the only personal best times of the day: in the A Division Takao Oda (JPN) improved to 1:09.80, while in the B Division there were personal bests for Viktor Lobas (RUS) and Stanislav Palkin (KAZ). Nuis leads the World Cup with the full score of 200 points, ahead of Kulizhnikov’s 140 and Verbij with 130.
Team Pursuit battle between Netherlands and Japan
The Japanese team won the overall World Cup last year in the Ladies Team Pursuit, but had to withdraw from last week’s event because of an injury. They were back for the World Cup at their home rink and started out with an impressive 2:59.74, the team consisting of Miho Takagi, Nana Takagi and Ayana Sato.
Before the Dutch and Russian teams met in the final pair, nobody had come close to the Japanese mark – Germany had held on to beat Korea in a close match-up, but still the time was close to five seconds behind Japan. The Dutch team consisted of Antoinette de Jong, Marrit Leenstra and Marije Joling, which meant that Ireen Wüst from last week's winning team had been replaced by Joling.
The Dutch kept a slightly higher pace than the Japanese throughout and finished in 2:58.69, one of the fastest Team Pursuits on a lowland rink and enough to secure victory. The Russian team never threatened them but kept a good margin to Germany and thus took third place in 3:02.80.
The Netherlands lead the World Cup with 200 points ahead of Russia’s 150. Both Korea and Germany have 120 points, but Korea hold the third place in the overall rankings since their best result so far is a third place, while Germany’s best is a fourth.
Surprising podium in the Men’s Team Pursuit
Gold for the Dutch team and silver for Korea in the Men’s Team Pursuit can hardly be called surprising, but few would have predicted the bronze winners.
New Zealand’s team, which only got the chance to start when Germany withdrew, pulled an upset when they came from behind to beat Russia in a time of 3:45.02. This was already good enough to take the lead over Poland, and when their time also withstood the attacks of Italy and Canada, Reyon Kay, Shane Dobbin and Peter Michael started to believe in miracles.
Their time was bettered by the Korean team, who finished in 3:44.38 and held the lead when the Dutch took to the ice in the final race against Norway. The win was never in doubt as the top trio from yesterday’s 5000 m (Sven Kramer, Jorrit Bergsma and Douwe de Vries) held safely on to victory with 3:42.65. As Norway could only finish sixth, the surprise was certain: New Zealand had indeed captured third place. This is their first podium finish in the Team Pursuit in the World Cup; Reyon Kay captured the country’s first ever podium place last year with a Mass Start bronze.
Having won both races so far, the Dutch lead the World Cup with 200 points. Korea has 150 points in second, while Norway follows with 125 points. New Zealand, Italy and Japan all have 110 points.
Team Sprint victories for Japan and Canada
The Team Sprint consists of three laps, with each team starting with three skaters and one skater dropping out for each lap, so that only one skater finishes. The Japanese team made up of Erino Kamiya, Arisa Go and Maki Tsuji, continued their strong showing from the individual sprint events and also took the victory in the Ladies Team Sprint in 1:27.78 ahead of Russia and the Netherlands.
Among the Men, Canada won in 1:20.52, the team consisting of Laurent Dubreuil, Christopher Fiola and Vincent De Haȋtre. Germany followed in second place and Japan was third, in an event where two teams (the United States and Poland) withdrew, while Russia and the Netherlands did not field their top Skaters.
As this was the first Team Sprint event of this season, the standing in the World Cup is identical to today’s results: Japan has taken the lead for the Ladies ahead of Russia and the Netherlands, while Canada leads for the Men followed by Germany and Japan.
The ISU World Cup Speed Skating Series continues tomorrow for Ladies and Men with the 500 m and 1500 m, followed by the Mass Start.