Pavel Kulizhnikov looks set to bounce back from his disappoinment in Inzell 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Pavel Kulizhnikov (RUS) and Håvard Lorentzen (NOR) did not win either of the two races on Saturday but still occupy the top-two positions in the men's overall rankings after day one of the ISU World Sprint Speed Skating Championships in Heerenveen. Kjeld Nuis (NED), who won the first 1000m of the tournament, is third while Tatsuya Shinhama (JPN) was the fastest man in the 500m and is fourth overall.
Kulizhnikov is seeking redemption for his disappointing results at the World Single Distance Championships in Inzell (GER) two weeks ago. The world record holder in the 500m did not manage to win the opening distance on Saturday, however. Despite a mis-stroke, Shinhama took the flowers in 34.66. Verbij was second in 34.72 and Kulizhnikov had to settle for third place in 34.74.
Tatsuya Shinhama was fifth in the 1000m after winning the 500m earlier in the day 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Kulizhnikov took revenge on Verbij in the final pairing of the 1000m. The Russian left his Dutch rival behind from the start and even managed to cross in front on the final back stretch, clocking 1:08.06, to take third place in the distance and climb to the top of the overall rankings. Verbij had to hold back and finished in 1:09.21, to take 10th place and drop to ninth place in the rankings.
"I just did not skate fast enough," Verbij said. "I was not able to make enough speed in the inner corners and when we came even on that final crossing I had to hold back, because otherwise I would even risk disqualification."
Kulizhnikov regretted the awkward crossing: "People may think that it was part of my strategy, but it wasn't," he said. "I deeply regret that it happened."
The 2015 and 2016 Champion regained his form after Inzell, and said: "I am skating calmly now and more technically. In Inzell I wanted it too much and that did not work out well."
Kulizhnikov only has an 0.07 second advantage over Lorentzen for the second 500m on Sunday.
"He will be my biggest rival for sure," the Russian said. "That's what I skate for, the beautiful rivalries."
Lorentzen was joint third with Kulizhnikov in the 500m and climbed to second place in the overall rankings after coming fourth in 1:08.19 in the 1000m.
"It's exciting that it's so close," the Olympic 500m Champion said. "I had two good races today, but both could have been better."
Havard Lorentzen sits in second place overall after a third and a fourth in Heerenveen 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
The Norwegian is happy to be competing in front of a large crowd in Heerenveen: "This is the big scene. Skating against a Dutchman I could not even hear the sound of my skates on the ice at the start. That's a lot of fun."
With his winning time of 1:07.86, Nuis was the only man to skate the 1000m under 1:08.00. Japan's Masaya Yamada (1:08.03) was second and Kulizhnikov (1:08.06) was third.
Lorentzen trails Kulizhnikov by 0.07 while Nuis is 0.14 behind the Russian. The Dutchman also hopes to make amends for disappointing performances at the World Single Distance Championships, saying: "It feels all right. I can make mistakes, but I still skate fast. That feels good."
Kjeld Nuis won the 100m at Ice Rink Thialf on Saturday 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)