Heerenveen / Netherlands

Nao Kodaira took her fourth 500m World Cup win this season and Ruslan Murashov won his second 500m win on the first day of the ISU Speed Skating World Cup in Heerenveen. Japan and Norway won the Ladies’ and Men’s Team Pursuit.

Wcssl500m 628780466Kodaira still unbeaten
Nao Kodaira is still undefeated in 500m World Cup races this season. After having won the first three races in Harbin and Nagano and skipping the Astana leg last week, the 30-year-old Japanese lady took gold again in Heerenveen.

Kodaira was paired to World and Olympic Champion Sang-Hwa Lee in the penultimate pair and both Ladies opened fast in 10.4. Entering the first turn from the outer lane, Lee lost balance a little. Although she managed to stay on her feet, Kodaira was long gone to clock 37.69. Lee crossed the line in 38.33 to end up ninth. Jing Yu (CHN) and Kodaira’s compatriot Maki Tsuji grabbed silver and bronze in the final pair. Yu set 37.81 and Tsuji 37.97.

Kodaira has had the best season start of her career/ “I just go. Maybe the others are not super fit”, she explained after her race. “It would be great to still be on top in February.” The Japanese sprinter was happy with the new Thialf Ice rink: “It’s very beautiful. If I would have had allround legs, I would love to skate here all day, but I have sprinter’s legs unfortunately”

Despite coming second, Yu retained the World Cup lead after last’s weeks double 500m victory. She collected 452 points. Kodaira climbed to 2nd place with 400 points and Tsuji is third with 395.

Murashov takes back-to-back 500m gold
Ruslan Murashov continued where he left off last week. After winning the second 500m race in Astana, the 23-year-old Russian also took gold in the shortest distance on Day 1 of the Heerenveen World Cup. Poland’s Artur Waś took silver and US skater Mitchell Whitmore grabbed bronze.

The first ten skaters were all faster than 35 seconds, but no one came close to Michel Mulder’s 2013 track record of 34.31. The Olympic Champion himself skated 35.35 to come fourth in the in the B Division. Murashov’s winning time in the A Division was 34.50.

Despite finishing 0.29 seconds adrift, Waś was still confident that he will beat either Murashov or his compatriot Kulizhnikov in the near future. “Nobody’s unbeatable”, he said. “I did not skate a perfect race. The competition is so tight, it’s all open.” Waś skated in the third pair versus Korea’s Jun-Ho Kim, who crashed out of the race at the start. The Polish skater was not distracted and rushed to the line in 34.79 after a 9.64 opener.

“My first goal was to make the qualifying time for the World Championships”, he said. “My second goal was to be on the podium and a bonus goal was to skate my fastest opener.” The Polish sprinter had skipped the first two World Cup events of this season in Harbin and Nagano. “I’m not the guy who handles long flights very well”, he explained.

Whitmore set 34.81 to take bronze in the sixth pair. He defeated Olympic bronze medalist Ronald Mulder, who finished in 35.16 to end up 17th. Pavel Kulizhnikov and Dai Dai Ntab, who led the World Cup ranking heading into the race, could not match Whitmore’s time in the final pair. The Russian set 34.93 to finish 6th and the Dutchman took 12th place in 35.01.

Despite coming sixth Kulizhnikov retained the lead in the 500m World Cup with 425 points. Murashov is second with 305 points and Ntab third with 248 points.

Wcssl500m 628780466Japan wins Team Pursuit after Dutch crash
After having won in Astana last week, the Japanese ladies took their second World Cup win of the season in Heerenveen on Friday. Miho Takagi, Ayano Sato and Nana Takagi clocked 2:59.51 to confidently beat Germany in the penultimate pairing. The German ladies (Gabriele Hirschbichler, Roxanne Dufter, Isabell Ost) took silver in 3:02.47, and Poland (Katarzyna Wozniak, Natalia Czerwonka, Katarzyna Bachleda-Curus) grabbed bronze in 3:03.50.

The Netherlands, who had won the first two World Cup races this season, finished ninth after a Linda de Vries crash. Marrit Leenstra and Ireen Wüst waited and the Dutch Ladies finished in 3:38.15.  

Japan’s Dutch coach Johan de Wit thought that the Dutch ladies might have won, if they would not have had a crash. “We were not as fast as last week. We did not have our strongest team because of an injury.” De Wit said there were no secrets to Japan’s success this season. “We work hard, we train hard and if you do that, success will come automatically.”

Netherlands stayed on top of the World Cup ranking with 310 points. Japan climbed to second with 280 points. Russia, who came fourth in Heerenveen also have 280 points. Russia is thirs because they did not win a race and Japan did.

Norway take Team Pursuit win
Norway took their season’s first victory in the Men’s Team Pursuit. Sverre Lunde Pedersen,  Simen Spieler Nilsen, Sindre Henriksen clocked 3:42.43 to beat Canada in the penultimate pairing. The Netherlands, who did not skate in their strongest lineup, without Sven Kramer and Jorrit Bergsma, took silver. Jan Blokhuijsen, Douwe de Vries, Patrick Roest set 3:43.04 in the final pair versus Japan, who ended up fourth in 3:43.76. Italy ((Nicola Tumolero, Michele Malfatti, Luca Stefani) took bronze in 3:43.53.

The Men’s Mass start was incident prone with Emery Lehman crashing for the USA in the first pair. His teammates waited, but they skated only 4:01.83. Despite the disappointing result, USA did not end up last, because the Russian team did not finish after a crash.

The Netherlands stayed on top of the World Cup rankings with 280 points. Norway is second with 270 points and Japan is third with the same amount of points.