The Dutch dominated the men’s podium in Inzell on Saturday as Kai Verbij (NED) clinched the Netherlands’ first individual gold medal of the 2019 World Single Distances Championships. The European Sprint champion won the 1000m, with compatriots Thomas Krol and Kjeld Nuis collecting silver and bronze, before Jorrit Bergsma (NED) took gold in the 10,000m narrowly ahead of runner-up Patrick Roest (NED), with only bronze medallist Danila Smerikov (RUS) preventing an all-orange afternoon.
Friends on the podium
Kai Verbij (NED) on his way to victory at the Max Aicher Arena in Inzell on Saturday © International Skating Union (ISU)
Before Verbij took the ice in the penultimate pairing in the 1000m, his good friend and former teammate Krol had been the first to skate under 1:08, breaking Kjeld Nuis’s 2018 track record by three-hundredths of a second in 1:07.67.
“He scared the hell out of me with that time,” Verbij admitted afterwards.
Despite his nerves, the 2017 World Sprint champion managed to keep his composure. “I never used to have a real plan for the 1000m in the past, but now I do. I skated quite a lot of 1000m starting in the inner lane, so I know what to do. I start at 80-90 percent and play safe in the second inner corner. From that moment onwards I attack the outer corners full throttle."
The plan worked perfectly and Verbij had enough power left to skate 26.1 in the final lap to finish in 1:07.39.
The 24-year-old said: “I knew I had to skate a 1:07-something to win here and I did, so I did what I had to do.”
Kjeld Nuis, Kai Verbij and Thomas Krol enjoy Netherlands' sweep of the Men’s 1000m podium © International Skating Union (ISU)
Krol, 26, had mixed feelings at being bettered by his friend. “It’s supercool to be on the podium together, but I’d rather have seen a different order obviously,” he said.
After Verbij’s run, Olympic champion Nuis took on Pavel Kulizhnikov (RUS) in the final pairing. The Dutchman had a false start and both skaters had a sloppy race with minor mis-strokes. Nuis still managed to clock 1:07.81 for bronze, but Kulizhnikov had to settle for sixth place in 1:08.13.
Nuis, 29, insisted the false start had not influenced his race. “No, I had a false start last year at the Olympics and I skated the race of my life, and today my opening was good too,” he said.
“I was focused on my opponent too much, instead of on my own technique. We both skated a jerky race and I’m really gutted. But all credit to Kai: he skated a fantastic race."
Close margins in 10,000m
Jorrit Bergsma took his third 10,000m world title in the day’s final event, edging out compatriot Patrick Roest by four-tenths of a second, while Danila Semerikov (RUS) pushed home favorite Patrick Beckert (GER) off the podium by a 0.002 margin.
A stylish Jorrit Bergsma (NED) celebrates being crowned Men’s 10,000m champion © International Skating Union (ISU)
Beckert had skated 12:57.40 in the penultimate pairing and, with only Roest and Semerikov to go, he was in silver medal position. Bergsma was in the lead with 12:52.92.
Roest attacked Bergsma’s time straight from the start and he got a small lead over his compatriot in the split times until the sixth of 25 laps. He gradually lost time in the rest of the race and with two laps to go the World Allround champion was almost three seconds down on Bergsma.
In the meantime Semerikov, in bronze medal position, was closing on Roest. The 23-year-old Dutchman said: “I was afraid that he (Semerikov) would come back and that would endanger my silver medal, so I tried to pull my last reserve.”
Heading into the final lap, the deficit on Bergsma was still more than two seconds and Semerikov was more than two seconds behind Roest.
Roest accelerated to skate a 29.8 final lap, giving Bergsma quite a scare before finishing in 12:53.34.
A relieved Bergsma, 33, said: “That was close. I skated a solid race, but not great. Halfway through the race I thought that Patrick would win, but then he appeared not to be so strong either. But in the end he accelerates super strong.”
Patrick Roest and Jorrit Bergsma of Netherlands and Danila Semerikov of Russia on the 10,000m podium © International Skating Union (ISU)
In Roest’s draft Semerikov finished in the same time as Beckert, but he appeared to have pushed his skate over the line two thousandths earlier than the German, who took his loss like a true sportsman, saying: “I’m happy with my time. When you're so close to a medal it’s hard to be satisfied but that’s sport. Sometimes you’re lucky, sometimes you’re not."
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