Collalbo, Italy

 #EuroSpeed          #SpeedSkating

Dutch sprint sensation Kai Verbij (NED) is top of the European pile for the second time. Having won the inaugural European Sprint Championships in Heerenveen two years ago, the 24-year-old clinched the title again in Collalbo on Saturday. The Dutchman won the first three distances before taking silver in the final 1000m to clinch overall success. Norwegian pair Håvard Lorentzen and Henrik Fagerli Rukke went home with silver and bronze respectively. In the men's Allround tournament Patrick Roest (NED) holds the lead after two distances.

Verbij breaks 35-second barrier

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Taste of success: Netherlands' skater Kai Verbij is European Sprint champion for the second successive time 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)

Clocking in at 34.93 seconds Kai Verbij (NED) was the only skater to stay under 35 seconds in the Sprint tournament. He was 0.30 seconds faster than the 35.23 he registered on the first day and fell just 0.04 seconds short of Jeremy Wotherspoon’s (CAN) 2004 track record. Håvard Lorentzen (NOR) came second in 35.10 and Artyom Kuznetsov (RUS) was third in 35.27.

Unlike the top three, Henrik Fagerli Rukke (NOR) was slower than his first 500m. He stopped the clock at 35.45 for sixth place in the distance, but maintained third position in the overall ranking after three events. Kuznetsov was ranked fourth and Rukke took a 0.34 second advantage over the Russian into the final 1000m

Lorentzen was ranked second and needed to make up a daunting 1.95 seconds on Verbij to take the title.

"I tried to make up time in the 500m, but he [Kai Verbij] answered too fast," Lorentzen said. "With that gap in the 1000m, I knew it would be impossible if he managed to avoid big mistakes."

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Håvard Lorentzen pushes all the way to the line in pursuit of the silver medal for Norway in Collalbo 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)

No mistakes

While Lorentzen may already have subconsciously settled for silver in the classification, Verbij was far from sure of the title before his final race. 

"I was happy with that 1.9 second advantage, but it's a different approach. Instead of trying to skate the fastest time ever, the mission is to stay on your feet and finish," Verbij said.

"Strange as it may sound, when you have to make up time, you're sharper mentally. Now I did not need a top time, but you can always make a mistake. It almost never happens, but it often happens at moments like these."

Verbij managed to avoid disaster, however. With 1:08.88 he beat Lorentzen in the final pairing to take silver in the distance, and clinch the overall gold. His Norwegian rival finished in 1:09.60 to end up fifth in the distance and secure the Sprint silver.

"I skated a very good and stable tournament," Verbij said. "This is a beautiful prize to win. It’s only once every two years, so you don't get too many chances and winning a classification over four distances is a sign of being a very complete sprinter." 

Lorentzen was happy with his podium spot, but the Olympic 500m Champion is still hungry for prizes over the remainder of the season.

"I know I can do better at the World Sprint Championships in Thialf [NED, 23-24 February]. I like skating indoor better than outdoors and my condition will improve, but in Heerenveen it will be different with the Russians, the Japanese and of course the Dutch again."

Krol takes revenge in 1000m

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Thomas Kroll (NED) set a blistering pace in the second 1000m, to atone for his crash on day one 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)

In the 1000m Thomas Krol (NED) made amends for his crash on Friday. With his chances of a good classification in tatters the Dutchman gave it his all in the final distance of the Sprint Tournament. With 1:08.68 Krol set a track record in the first pairing. 

To underline Krol’s impressive pace, before Verbij and Lorentzen took the ice for the climax of the tournament in the final pairing, none of the other skaters had been able to skate under 1:09. 

Norway’s Rukke clocked 1:10.12 for 10th place in the distance, which turned out to be enough to hang on to third place overall, after his main rival Kuznetsov finished just 0.01 faster.

The medal came as a pleasant surprise for the 22-year-old Norwegian. 

"My goal was to take at least top five in one distance and maybe top eight in the final classification, so I'm really happy with this result," he said.

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The Men's Sprint medallists (from left to right): Håvard Lorentzen (NOR, silver), Kai Verbij (NED, gold), Henrik Fagerli Rukke (NOR, bronze) 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)

Rukke’s countryman Lorentzen was happy to have a compatriot on the podium:

"That's good for Norwegian skating. For years it's only been Håvard [Bøkko] and last season it was Sverre [Lunde Pedersen] and me, and now also Henrik. It's god to have more skaters who can win medals. It takes away some of the pressure from me. If I've got a bad day, someone else steps up.

"It's like the Dutch. There’s always a Dutchman skating fast. Like yesterday, one of the Dutchman crashes, another is disqualified, and there's still another one skating ridiculously fast."

Roest takes lead in Allround Championships 

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Patrick Roest (NED) glides towards second place in the Men's Allround 5000m 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)

Patrick Roest (NED) is in pole position after the first day of the men's Allround tournament, but the gaps between the top three skaters are very small. Sven Kramer (NED) is in second place, just 0.13 seconds behind for Sunday’s 1500m. Sverre Lunde Pedersen (NOR) is 0.20 seconds behind the leader in third place.

Kramer won the 5000m in 6 minutes and 17.66 seconds, with Roest 0.55 behind in second. Pedersen took third place in 6:20.59.

Kramer was happy with his 5000m race. "If you beat Patrick [Roest] nowadays, you're doing pretty well. It's an exciting tournament with the top riders close together and I actually don’t really like that," the nine-time European Allround champion said.

Roest, who finished fourth in the 500m in 36.59, agreed: "Of course it's better to be in a comfortable lead after the first day. I blew my 500m with two major mistakes in the corners. That cost me about 0.2 or 0.3 seconds. But now that's irrelevant. I'll have to deal with it. It is the way it is."

For full entry lists and further information regarding the European Speed Skating Championships please visit: Results are here and you can follow the discussion on social media by using #EuroSpeed and #SpeedSkating.