Thomas Krol skated to a new championships record on his way to gold in the men's 1500m ©International Skating Union
Thomas Krol (NED) completed his 1500m sweep on the opening day of the ISU European Speed Skating Championships in Heervereen (NED), adding the European title to the national and World titles he already had under his belt. Russia won the men's Team Sprint with bronze medallists Switzerland writing history by seizing the first medal for their country at any European speed skating championships.
"Two weeks ago, I won my first national title in the 1500m," Krol said. "Last year I already won the World title and now the European title, which actually is sort of in-between."
The 27-year-old Dutchman was the only one to skate under 1:44, setting a new championships record in 1:43.67. Denis Yuskov (RUS) came second in 1:44.80, just 0.02 ahead of bronze medal winner Patrick Roest (NED).
At the first European Single Distance Championships two years ago in Kolomna, Russia, Krol had come second behind Yuskov.
"That was a different Thomas," Krol reflected on the race in Kolomna. "That was a Thomas who made room to let Yuskov go ahead [at the crossing], while he actually had priority. A lot of things have changed since then. The roles have reversed."
Krol skated the fourth fastest 1500m time in history in Thialf, but couldn't touch the track record of 1:43.36 set by Yuskov in 2015.
"It is special, but I'm still not the fastest ever and that's something I really would like to do some time still."
Defending champion Denis Yuskov was beaten into second place ©International Skating Union
Yuskov was happy to take silver behind Krol. "It's my best time of the season. I'm happy for Thomas because he's a really good person."
Yuskov also looked back at his own track record. "Five years ago, when I skated 1:43 here, that was in space. Now there's Thomas and two or three guys who can make it."
Roest was a little disappointed to miss out on the silver by just a 0.02 second margin, but he had not expected to be able to beat Krol's time when he got onto the ice in the final pairing.
"When Thomas skates a time like that, I know it's going to be difficult. When he clocks 1:43, I know I skate for second place."
Swiss stunner in Team Sprint
Krol had fully focused on the 1500m and decided to skip the Team Sprint event because he did not have enough time to recover. The Dutch team therefore did not appear in the team event at all, leaving the floor open for a Swiss surprise.
Switzerland made history in the men's Team Sprint by claiming their country's first speed skating medal ©International Skating Union
"We knew we had the opportunity," Wenger said. "There was a chance today with Holland pulling out."
Wenger understood why the Netherlands had decided not to start, but regretted it too:
"I understand Thomas for sure, I see where he's coming from. But I think it's very sad for the public especially in Thialf. I believe a lot of others had the same thing. The Italians had two [skaters in] the 1500m, the Polish one, the Russians had on. I was in the 1500m. I really believe they [the Netherlands] should have raced because I think they could have won it today."
Russia took the team title after Netherlands decided not to race ©International Skating Union
Kulizhnikov, who had been hampered by injury troubles earlier this season, was happy to be back and pain free.
"My injury is over. But I don’t have much experience in the Team Sprint. It's only the second time I skated this event, but the time was very good, so I'm satisfied."