Russia's Pavel Kulizhnikov powers to second place in the 1000m to secure the overall title in Heerenveen 2019©Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Pavel Kulizhnikov (RUS) won his third World Sprint crown as the ISU World Sprint Speed Skating Championships in Heerenveen came to an end on Sunday, adding to the titles he won in 2015 and 2016. Tatsuya Shinhama clinched a surprise silver for Japan and Kjeld Nuis (NED) grabbed bronze on home soil at Thialf Stadium.
Kulizhnikov closed in on the overall victory winning the 500m in style. The world record holder started in the final pair versus Kai Verbij (NED), who had blown his chances of success in the overall rankings after an awkward cross-over with Kulizhnikov in Saturday's 1000m.
Verbij bounced back by clocking 34.74 and taking bronze in the 500m on Sunday, but Kulizhnikov was in a league of his own in the shortest distance. The Russian rocket equaled the Thialf track record in 34.31. Shinhama was the only one to come close, taking second in 34.45.
Kulizhnikov went into the 1000m with a 0.63 second advantage over second-ranked Shinhama. The Russian said: "It was all very close and I knew I had to skate a very good second 500m to get myself in pole position for the final 1000m. After the 500m I could relax a little."
Comparing the 2019 title to the 2015 and 2016 World Sprint Championships, Kulizhnikov rated his latest victory higher, saying: "The first two titles were easy. This was a hard-fought battle so this gives me more satisfaction."
Tatsuya Shinhama of Japan celebrates coming second in the 500m on Sunday 2019©Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
After climbing to second place in the rankings in the 500m on Sunday, Shinhama went into the 1000m with a 0.70 advantage over Håvard Lorentzen (NOR) and 1.13 over Nuis. The 22-year-old Japanese skater managed to keep both the Norwegian and the Dutchman at bay with the fifth-best time of 1:08.82 in the 1000m, to take silver in the overall standings.
Shinhama had shown impressive calmness on the first day of the Championship. He damaged his shoe with a mis-stroke in the first 500m and still managing to win the distance, but his shoe needed to be repaired within one and a half hours before the 1000m. Shinhama said: "The shoe broke after 50 meters and I skated the rest of the race with loose shoelaces. Luckily enough my team was able to fix it before the start of the 1000m."
Shinhama's silver was the first Japanese medal at in the World Sprint Championships since Keiichiro Nagashima's bronze in 2010. The youngster had surprised himself, but not so much his coach Johan de Wit (NED), who said: "The good ones come quickly and Shinhama is very good. We can see that in training."
The skater himself credited his coach for the progression in Japanese speed skating, saying: "The Japanese ladies did very well with coach Johan de Wit at the PyeongChang Olympic Games last year. That has inspired the men and this year he has become the men's coach too, which has helped us raise the level."
Kjeld Nuis won both 1000m races in Heerenveen and was third overall 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Nuis won the 1000m in 1:07.80, with Kulizhnikov coming second in 1:08.62 and Lorentzen third in 1:08.73. The Dutchman made up a 0.43 second deficit to surpass last year's champion for the third podium spot.
"I'm super happy," said Nuis. "It's great to have won two 1000m races at these championships. The level is so high. Kulizhnikov is just too good. I had to skate a personal best in the 500m and a track record in the 1000m, which was just a bit too much today."