Calgary / Canada

Nao Kodaira became the first Japanese lady to win the ISU World Sprint Speed Skating Championships in Calgary on Sunday. Kai Verbij (NED) survived a nerve wrecking miss stroke in the final 1000m to grab his first career World Sprint Title. Both Kodaira and Verbij skated a World Record in the sprint combination.

Sprint-Day2-Nao-645613656Kodaira in league of her own
Nao Kodaira started the second day of the championships with a 0.69 advantage over Heather Bergsma at the start of the second 500m. The 31-year-old Japanese sprinter increased her lead, being the only one to break the 37 second barrier again on Sunday. Czech European Sprint Champion Karolina Erbanova came second in the 500m in 37.23 and Kodaira’s compatriot Maki  Tsuji was third in 37.28.

Heading into the final 1000m, Kodaira had a 2.48 lead over second ranked Heather Bergsma (USA), who finished fifth in the second 500m. Kodaira was out of reach, but both Erbanova and Jorien ter Mors (NED) still chased Bergsma for silver. The Czech Lady was only 0.02 behind the American, and the Dutchwoman had to make up 0.32 seconds for second place.

Bergsma and Ter Mors met in the penultimate pair of the 1000m, with the American coming out on top. Ter Mors, who skated a Dutch record with a superb final lap on Saturday (1:12.53), could not match that performance on Sunday, finishing in 1:12.58. Bergsma went all-out from the start on Sunday, and managed to stay well ahead of Ter Mors going in to the final lap. With 1:12.18 she smashed her own track record (1:12.51).

Kodaira did not have to go all out in the final pair of Sunday’s 1000m, but Erbanova had to fight for a podium spot. The Czech skater did not manage to keep Bergsma and Ter Mors behind. She stopped the clock at 1:13.83 to come fourth in the 1000m. With two second places in the 500m and two fourth places in the 1000m Erbanova ended up fourth in the final classification. Kodaira added a third place in the 1000m in 1:13.17 to secure the title, after having won the first three distances. Bergsma held on to second place and Ter Mors grabbed the bronze medal.  

After the 30 personal and 10 national records on Saturday, the Ladies added five personal bests in the 500m and 13 PB’s and two NR’s in the 1000m.

Sprint-Day2-Kai-645607188Verbij escapes crash scare in final race
Kai Verbij had at tight 0.11 second lead over Nico Ihle (GER) heading into Day 2 of the championships. The Dutch European Sprint Champion clocked a personal best of 34.25 for fourth place in the second 500m, to increase his lead in the classification. Ihle messed up his 500m on Sunday, coming 22nd in 35.03.  

Kjeld Nuis also disappointed in the second 500m, with 34.84 for 16th place. Ronald Mulder, who won Saturday’s 500m in a new Dutch record, shaved another 0.10 seconds off his record to take 500m gold on Sunday too. He climbed to second place in the classification. Roman Krech (KAZ) managed another 500m second place finish on Sunday, but he was too far behind to challenge Verbij for the title. Mika Poutala skated a Finnish record in 34.23 to climb to fourth in the classification, behind Norway’s Håvard Holmefjord Lorentzen, who came 10th in Sunday’s 500m.

Nuis had set his sights on the World Record in the final 1000m. Heading into the race in ninth place, the Dutch 1000m World Champion put the pressure on his rivals when he clocked 1:06.51, just 0.09 above Shani Davis’ (USA) World Record. Ruslan Murashov (RUS) withdrew from the competition in the 1000m and Mitchell Whitmore (USA), Laurent Dubreuil (CAN), and Mika Poutala did not manage to stay ahead of Nuis in the classification.

With only two pairs to go, Nuis was still on top, but Lorentzen clocked 1:07.38 for third place to keep Nuis behind. Verbij defended a 0.40 second lead over Ronald Mulder in the final pair and he had a 0.99 second lead over Lorentzen.

Safe as he might have seemed, Verbij had a tough time to control his nerves. The Dutchman almost crashed when he had a miss stroke heading into the final lap. Although Verbij lost speed, he managed to stay ahead of Mulder, who finished in 1:08.23 for eighth place in the final 1000m and dropped to fourth place overall. Verbij’s 1:07.94 was enough to keep Lorentzen at bay. The Norwegian skater did win silver, with Nuis taking the overall bronze.

Canada’s Vincent De Haitre came second in the final 1000m with 1:07.23, but he was too far behind in both his 500m races to be a podium contender.    

Like Kodaira in the Ladies’ tournament, Verbij set a new World Record in the Sprint Combination: 136.065. There were 9 PB’s and 2 NR’s in the Men’s 500m and 11 PB’s and one NR in the Men’s 1000m on Sunday.