Russia dominated Men's 500m with medals for (from left): Kulizhnikov (second), Murashov (first) and Mushtakov (third) 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)
Russia’s men have fired a warning message to their rivals ahead of next week’s world championships in Salt Lake City with a dominant display on day one of the fifth leg of the ISU World Cup in Calgary. Ruslan Murashov, Pavel Kulizhnikov and Viktor Mushtakov swept the podium in the opening 500m with the smallest possible margin between them, while teammate Denis Yuskov went on to triumph in the 1500m.
Men's 500m: Russian 1-2-3
Kulizhnikov was the first of the Russians to take on the fast, high-altitude ice at the 1988 Olympic Oval in the second pair.
The world-record holder, who returned to action in December after missing the first three World Cup events of the season, took on PyeongChang 2018 Olympic champion Håvard Lorentzen (NOR). Kulizhnikov left Lorentzen behind quickly to finish just 0.05 seconds short of his own track record in 34.05. His Norwegian opponent, who has been struggling for form this season, clocked 34.61 to end up 15th.
World Cup overall leader Mushtakov skated versus third-ranked Tatsuya Shinhama (JPN) in the eighth pairing. The Russian had the fastest opener of the field in 9.41, but could not match Kulizhnikov's 24.43 full lap and finished 0.01 short of his compatriot. The Japanese record holder had to settle for fourth place in 34.22.
Murashov went next, and with 9.65 he had the slowest opener of the Russians, but he skated the fastest full lap of the field in 24.39 to edge out Kulizhnikov by 0.009 seconds.
Ruslan Murashov headed a Russia 1-2-3 in Men's 500m 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)
The fourth Russian in the A Division, Artem Arefyev, was unlucky in his race versus Kai Verbij (NED). The Dutchman stepped on a marker in the final inner corner and almost took down Arefyev as he wiped out. The Russian stumbled but managed to stay on his feet and was given a chance to re-skate. He ended up 18th in 34.77.
"The relationship in our team is very good,” silver-medalist Kulizhnikov said. “Mushtakov joined the team later, but that doesn't mean that there is a hierarchy between us. We're colleagues and we make each other stronger.
"My own race was far from perfect today. It was full of mistakes, especially in the second corner where I held back a little not to run any risks a week ahead of the world championships [in Salt Lake City, 13-16 February]."
All three Russians skated faster than the previous season’s-best time of 34.16, set by Dai Dai Ntab (NED) last week. In Calgary the flying Dutchman skated a disappointing race to finish in 34.60 seconds after his start was delayed to allow for ice repair following Verbij's crash.
"After that I also had a false start,” Ntab said. “I didn’t hit a single stroke well in the first 300m. When your timing is off in the 500m, you end up outside the top 10 just like that.
"My race was far from perfect today, but I don’t think the Russians are out of reach. Those times don't impress me much. [It would have impressed me] if they had skated 33.5, but these times … I know I can do that too."
ISU World Cup Speed Skating Standings 500m Men
Denis Yuskov (RUS) glides to success in Men's 1500m in Calgary 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)
Men's 1500m: Yuskov takes first season gold
In the 1500m Denis Yuskov grabbed his first World Cup win of the season. In the absence of Netherlands’ trio Thomas Krol, Kjeld Nuis and Patrick Roest, the Russian clocked 1:43.23 to edge out Ning Zhongyan (CHN) by 0.02 for gold. Joey Mantia (USA) seized bronze in 1:43.74.
“This was not a great race,” Yuskov said after finishing well outside is own 2017 track record of 1:41.33.
“I tried to skate a good opener, but 23.46 … it's normal, it's not good. Then in the next inner corner I tried to stay low, which was not bad but after 700m I couldn't stay that low any longer because my legs were tired. I just had to hang in there.”
Krol, Nuis and Roest, the Dutch numbers one, two and four in the overall World Cup ranking prior to Friday’s racing did not compete in Calgary to save energy for next week's world championships.
“It is what it is,” Yuskov said, after moving up to second in the overall ranking with this victory. “My first distance in Salt Lake City is the 5000m and the 1500m is only on the final day. I don't know how it will play out next week. We'll see.”
Ning Zhongyan (CHN) leads the overall World Cup rankings in Men's 1500m 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)
With the Dutchmen absent, 20-year-old Ning posted a personal best to finish second and take over the lead in the World Cup standings.
“I skated up to my abilities and I'm satisfied with my performance,” he said.
“Of course I also have my thoughts [about racing in Calgary a week before the world championships], but I'll just have to adapt and show my best again next week."
ISU World Cup Speed Skating Standings 1500m Men
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