Two personal bests put Patrick Roest (NED) in pole position to retain his World Allround title. The defending champion came second in the 500m and won the 5000m to take a comfortable lead over Sverre Lunde Pedersen (NOR) and Sven Kramer (NED) in the overall classification.
Roest draws first blood
Patrick Roest (NED) enjoyed an almost perfect first day at the men's World Allround Championships Calgary 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Reigning World Allround champion Patrick Roest (NED) could hardly have started better in defense of his title.
The 23-year-old youngster left pair-mate and record nine-time gold medallist Sven Kramer (NED) standing in the opening distance, and also finished ahead of last year's silver medalist Sverre Lunde Pedersen (NOR).
Canada's Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu won the men's opening distance in 35.53, with Roest coming second in 35.74 and Pedersen third in 35.85. In a sign of the level of competition, all three men had to skate a personal best to earn a place on the 500m podium.
Kramer had to settle for ninth place in 36.41, leaving him with a 6.70-second gap to Roest in the 5000m.
A mistake at the start line may have cost the multiple champion. ”That 500m does not reflect how I feel, because I'm in good shape,” Kramer said. “I had the feeling that I did not stand still at the start, so I expected to get a false start, but the second shot did not come, so I had to continue.
“It all happens in a split-second, but it costs a bit of time because after a slow start making pace in that long outer corner is more difficult too. It's a pity, but it's my own fault."
Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu, of Canada, won the men's 500m in a blistering 35.53 seconds Calgary 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Roest carried a 1.10 second gap over world 5000m champion Pedersen into the second distance.
The Norwegian 5000m was the first of the title favorites on the ice, in the ninth pairing. He skated a balanced race of sub-29 second laps, but collapsed in the final two laps, clocking 29.9 and 31.4 to finish in 6:10.10.
"I tried to do something special, pushing down my lap times to 28.7 in the ninth and 10th lap, but the last two laps were too hard,” Pedersen said. "I may have been a little too eager. At this altitude you get punished for skating too hard in the middle part."
Kramer and Roest knew how to take advantage of Pedersen’s slip. In the 10th pair, Kramer skated a little behind Pedersen's pace throughout, only to catch up with two final laps of 28.8 and 29.1 to stop the clock at 6:08.83.
Roest followed his team-mate’s example, and managed to outskate him with final 28.7 and 28.6 laps to post a personal best of 6:08.27 and win the distance.
Kramer and Pedersen finished second and third in the 5000m, as well as in the overall ranking.
Norway's Sverre Lund Pedersen struggled over his two final laps in the men's 5000m Calgary 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Roest in pole position
With his 5000m victory, the defending champion increased his lead over Pedersen to 0.88 seconds for Sunday's 1500m. Kramer trails 2.18 seconds.
Pedersen faces a tough task to challenge for the gold on Sunday.
"Patrick skated two really good races today and it will be hard to beat him tomorrow, but I just have to stay positive," the Norwegian said. “I'll try to recover and see what happens tomorrow."
Contrary to Kramer and Pedersen, Roest was satisfied with both his races on Saturday.
"A perfect start,” he admitted. "I have to follow this up in the same fashion tomorrow.
"I knew what to do. When I saw Pedersen [struggle in the last two laps] I wanted to pace my race smarter. In Inzell (at the World Single Distance Championships) I started too fast and couldn't pull through. This time I started more carefully, and with five laps to go I knew I could bring it home.”
The defending champion was anxious not to speculate on winning another title just yet. “Sverre [Pedersen] is my biggest opponent at the moment," he said. "It’s a tough challenge for him, but he can skate a good 1500m.”
The decorated Kramer felt his chances of clinching a record-extending 10th title were blown in the 500m.
"For me to win? That's only possible if someone crashes or gets disqualified and that's not how you want to win a title,” he said.
Nine-time gold medallist Sven Kramer remains an outside chance in the men's World Allround Championships Calgary 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
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