The Republic of Korea brought their top male skaters to the Four Continents tournament and it paid off on Saturday. Kim Min-Seok won the 1500m ahead of three Canadians, while Um Cheon-Ho and Chung Jae-Won landed gold and silver in the mass start at the Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee, USA.
Kim Min-Seok (KOR) overcame jetlag to race to gold in the Men's 1500m 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)
Men’s 1500m: Kim soars to gold despite jetlag
PyeongChang 2018 Olympic bronze medalist Kim Min-Seok lived up to expectations in the 1500m. Despite five personal best times in the previous five pairings, the Korean did not need to push his own limits to outclass the rest of the field.
Kim stopped the clock at 1:44.56, just 0.9 seconds outside US skater Chad Hendrick’s 2009 track record and almost 1.5 seconds clear of his challengers.
"It was not a bad race," Kim said. "I'm in good condition, but not a hundred percent because of the time difference between Korea and the USA. I arrived in Milwaukee only six days ago."
The current number five in the 1500m World Cup ranking is gearing up for the world championships in Salt Lake City in mid-February, adding: "I'll be ready in two weeks."
Despite his jetlag-hampered performance, Kim was 1.42 seconds faster than silver-medalist Jess Neufeld (CAN. Another Canadian, Jake Weidemann, took bronze in 1:46.49 while his compatriot David La Rue finished just outside the podium places in 1:46.72 to complete a positive afternoon’s racing for Canada’s men.
Medalists in Men's 1500m (from left): Jess Neufeld (CAN, silver), Kim Min-Seok (KOR, gold), Jack Weidemann (CAN, bronze) 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)
Neufeld was happy to grab a first international medal, saying: "It's my first international competition racing individually. Last year I was in Inzell [in Germany, at the World Single Distance Championships] for the Mass Start, but not in an individual distance.
"I did not have anything crazy in terms of expectations. I just wanted to execute a good race and I landed on the podium. I couldn't be happier."
Bronze medalist Weidemann said: "It's awesome to travel and compete internationally against different guys, at a different venue. I haven't been here in a long time."
"It's a bit nerve wracking [competing against Olympic medalist Kim], but he’s such a nice guy. You want to be competitive with him, but on the other hand it's just so nice to see him do well."
Republic of Korea's Um Cheon-Ho (front) and Chung Jae-Won used their experience to pip USA's Ian Quinn to gold and silver in the Mass Start 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)
Men’s Mass Start: “You gamble and hope it pays out”
Ian Quinn (USA) had to settle for bronze in the Men’s Mass Start after his late attack on the lead narrowly failed to come off.
Where the earlier ladies race had been a cagey affair, Japan’s Takuro Ogawa made sure that the men's was a more exciting and faster proposition. The 24-year-old attacked after the first intermediate sprint and managed to stay clear of the bunch until the final corner.
Behind Ogawa the Americans, the Koreans and the Canadians shared duties putting their noses in the wind to keep the gap playable before Quinn made his move with one lap to go.
"I shouldn't have probably gone there,” the US skater said. “I could have gone in the last turn, [which] might have been the smarter move, but I was also kind of hoping that maybe the Canadian and my teammate [Ethan Cepuran] might have blocked [the Koreans’] route to go with me.
“You gamble and hope it plays out. I gave it my best shot and I’m happy with the result."
Um Cheon-Ho and Chung Jae-Won took full advantage of Quinn's acceleration and after having caught Ogawa they overtook the American on the finishing straight.
Delighted to win his first international ISU Championship medal on familiar ice in Milwaukee, Quinn believes the long-awaited Four Continents event is a valuable addition to the racing calendar.
"I grew up skating here. I'm from St. Louis originally,” he said. “I used to come here doing short track when I was growing up.
"I think [the Four Continents] is an important event to gear up for worlds [world championships in Salt Lake City, USA, in mid-February]. The more you allow people to race the better and the bigger the sport can become."
The ISU Four Continents Championships will close off with the Men’s and Ladies’ 1000m and the Team Pursuit events.
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