Pavel Kulizhnikov chased down the time of home hero Dai Dai Ntab in the final pair of the Men's 500m © International Skating Union
Pavel Kulizhnikov (RUS) and Patrick Roest (NED) lived up to expectations, winning the 500m and the 5000m on the second day of the ISU European Speed Skating Championships on Saturday. All six medals in the men's competition went to Russia and the Netherlands, with the visitors taking one gold and two bronze and the home squad one gold and two silvers.
With 9.61 Kuizhnikov opened 0.02 faster than the home favorite, but Mushtakov had the fastest opener of the field with 9.58.
Mushtakov was not able to handle his speed well, however. The 23-year-old Russian lost his balance coming out of the first corner, and while he managed to stay on his feet, he lost too much time to be able to catch up with his compatriot.
Kulizhnikov finished in 34.38, which was just 0.07 seconds outside the track record he shares with Michel Mulder (NED). Ntab had to settle for silver.
"It's a good time and a good race, but I did not show my best shape here," the world record holder commented.
Ntab’s pair-mate Ruslan Murashov took bronze in 34.59. Kulizhnikov praised his young team-mates Murashov and Mushtakov, saying: "This young generation of Russian sprinters shows good results. We all get better because of the team. As a skater you cannot do it all by yourself."
Murashov was happy with his time and he enjoyed skating in front of the crowd of the sold-out Thialf Stadium. He said: "For me this is a season's best time, so I'm happy with it. Competition is of a high level and I love the atmosphere here in Heerenveen."
Ntab had also enjoyed the crowd. "I didn’t hear it during my race, but after I crossed the line I heard this wild roar from the crowd, that's a great experience," he said.
The Dutchman was had mixed feelings about the color of his medal: "When I got off the ice I was a bit down [to miss out on gold], but a little later I was really proud to have won silver - it's my first medal at a major international championships."
Dominant Roest wins 5000m in track record time
Patrick Roest continued his 5000m winning streak to push mentor and defending champion Sven Kramer into second place © International Skating Union
The men's 5000m saw an early start for the man who has dominated the event for more than a decade, Sven Kramer (NED). The reigning Olympic Champion was not able to compete at the top level in the first half of the current World Cup season due to back problems, and went out in the second pair.
Carried by the enthusiastic home-town crowd, Kramer managed to skate a very flat race of 11 29-second laps to finish in 6:10.76.
"It's the fifth time I ever skated here [in Thialf stadium]," Kramer said. "In the past you would relatively easy win with a time like this, but now there's Patrick Roest and that's my own fault."
Kramer's young teammate and pupil Roest is the new dominant force in the 5000m, having won all his races at the distance this season. He entered the rink in the third last pair, alongside track record holder Danila Semerikov (RUS).
Roest left the Russian behind with adding four 28 laps to seven 29 laps, closing out with 30.22 to finish in 6:08.92, shaving 0.04 seconds off the track record.
Roest said: "I was not aiming at the track record. The most important thing today was to skate a good race and win, but it's nice to have the track record back of course."
The record had not come easy, however: "The first laps were fine, then I wanted to accelerate but I completely exploded in the final lap. With a last 30-second lap, you lose a lot. Luckily enough I had just enough left."
Kramer's 6:10.76 was eventually enough for silver, but Roest isn’t claiming the 5000m crown from his mentor just yet.
"I don’t want to say that after the European Championships," he said. "Maybe we could discuss that after the World Championships [in Salt Lake City in February]."
Kramer acknowledged that he's still behind Roest, but he won't settle for silver without a fight: "The gap [between Roest and himself] is just 1.8 seconds, while it was 20 seconds in the beginning of this season, so I'm progressing well. I'm looking forward to Calgary [World Cup] and Salt Lake City."
Denis Yuskov (RUS) grabbed the bronze from Jorrit Bergsma in a thrilling final pairing. The Russian was almost two seconds behind halfway through the race, but overhauled his pair-mate in the final lap to prevent the Dutch from sweeping the 5000m podium.
Yuskov had already won a 1500m silver on Friday, but the 5000m bronze meant more to him. "I switched attention from the 1000m to the 5000m in addition to the 1500m this season," he said. "This is one of the most precious medals in my career."
Yuskov had chosen a cautious strategy, starting slow only to accelerate in the second part of the race. "My tactics was to wait and see until after five laps or so, and it worked."
Could he have been faster if he had started out on a higher pace? "We'll see in Salt Lake City [at the World Championships," the Russian smiled.