Just 0.002 seconds separated Kouki Kubo (JPN) and Laurent Dubreuil (CAN) in the Men's 1000m on the final day of the ISU Four Continents Championships in Milwaukee. It was the difference between gold and silver, with the Japanese youngster taking the highest honor. The Men's Team Pursuit title went to Canada, after Team USA got disqualified.
Medalists in Men's 1000m (from left): Laurent Dubreuil (CAN, silver), Koki Kubo (JPN, gold), Kim Jin-Su (KOR, bronze) 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)
Men's 1000m: “The better skater” takes it by a whisker
In the Men's 1000m only three skaters managed to break the 1:09 barrier. Kim Jin-Su (KOR) was the fastest with two pairs to go, clocking 1:08.84 in the sixth pairing. The 27-year-old eventually had to settle for bronze.
Dubreuil entered the rink in the penultimate pair and hammered out 1:08.54, just 0.21 seconds slower than the 2005 track record set by double Olympic champion Shani Davis (USA).
Japan’s Kubo took on Kimani Griffin (USA) in the final pairing with it all to do. He was 0.42 seconds behind Dubreuil's time at the 600m split, before heading into an awkward crossover with his pair-mate in the final lap.
Coming out of the penultimate corner Griffin and Kubo were level at the back stretch and Griffin waited before giving Kubo, who had more speed coming from the outer lane, the priority he was entitled to. It cost the American a disqualification.
Japan's Kouki Kubo put in a blistering finish to win the Men's 1000m by the narrowest of margins 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)
"I knew it was going to be a difficult crossing, but I knew I was faster," Kubo said. "I had a similar situation at the World Cup in Nagano [13-15 December] and because of that I could handle it better here."
The 20-year-old did not let the incident affect his race and maintained his high speed into the final inner corner to clock a furious final lap of 26.87, which added up to the same time Dubreuil had just skated.
Both skaters waited for the scoreboard to confirm the result.
"They put him first and me second, but sometimes they change it," Dubreuil said. "But the longer it took, the more I thought I probably got beaten.
"Two-thousandths, it's close. But long track is fair, he beat me. It's not a lot, but he was faster than me. I'm still happy with my race. The better skater beat me today.
"I was rusty. I hadn't raced in six weeks after Japan [World Cup in Nagano]. I wanted to race in January at our trials, but I hurt my groin before the races, and I was prequalified for the World Cup and the world championships, so it was just training races for me.
"Where I live, in Quebec City, there's no oval. They’re building one right now. So before showing up here, in the last six weeks I had skated three times. I trained off ice, with weights, a bit of biking, technical jumps on dry land - but nothing compares to skating.
"That's why I came here. I felt like I really needed to skate and race to shake of the rust before Calgary [World Cup next week] and Salt Lake City [World Single Distance Championships in mid-February]."
Kubo will not skate in Salt Lake City, but the sprinter, who won the 500m Junior World title last year, will travel to Calgary to make his World Cup debut.
"This is a brand new Championships and I'm the first champion,” he said. “It's always nice to be the first on the list."
Canada benefitted from the USA's disqualification to take gold in the final event of the inaugural Speed Skating Four Continents 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)
Men's Team Pursuit: “Awkward” medal follows pleasing performance
Canada finished behind Team USA in the final pairing of the Men’s Team Pursuit but were awarded the gold medal anyway.
Hayden Mayeur, Kaleb Muller and Jake Weidemann (CAN) clocked 3:44.36, while the hosts were more than two seconds faster before being disqualified for improper equipment.
"It's a little awkward," Weidemann said. "But it's good to just stand up there and do a good race. I think we're all pretty happy with the way we competed today."
With their World Cup team back home in Calgary, Canada had given their second-tier skaters a chance to shine at the Four Continents Championships and they made the best of it.
"The depth that Canada has got today, we don’t exactly get to do all the competitions that we would like to,” Weidemann said.
“For us, it [the Four Continents Championships] adds another level of competition against international people."
His teammate Mayeur added: "We've done a practice run in this line-up just a couple of weeks ago, but this is the first time we skated together in real competition, where there's medals on the line. But we're teammates and we know each other well
"All three of us are really on the brink of making it into the World Cup circuit. It's all a matter of fighting for a couple of extra tenths of seconds, that's what this sport's all about."
Kazakhstan enjoyed a successful trip to Milwaukee, taking home a gold, two silvers and two bronzes 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)
The result left the Koreans top of the overall Men’s medal table, with four golds, two silvers and a bronze from the weekend’s action. Canada, Kazakhstan and Japan finished with one gold apiece.