On the last 10 occasions it has been contested, Martina Sáblíková (CZE) has won the Ladies’ 5000m title at the ISU World Single Distances Championships, so when she clocked a world record over the distance on Saturday in Salt Lake City, it seemed only a miracle could keep her from claiming an 11th consecutive gold. That miracle went by the name of Natalya Voronina. After Sáblíková's 6:41.18, the 25-year-old Russian broke the 6:40 barrier with 6:39.02 to seize her first major international title. In the 1000m, 21-year-old Jutta Leerdam grabbed her first world title, and the first individual gold for the Netherlands, three days into the tournament.
Natalya Voronina (RUS) celebrates the world record and gold medal in the Ladies' 5000m 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)
Ladies’ 5000m: Records tumble as Sáblíková bows to Voronina
The Czech superstar set out at world-record pace and never let up. With 6:41.18 she overhauled her own March 2019 mark of 6:42.01.
The last world record in a classic distance that was skated at the 1988 Calgary Olympic Oval had moved to Salt Lake City, underlining the Utah Olympic Oval's claim of having 'the fastest ice on the planet'.
"My race was optimal," Sáblíková said. "Every lap was the same [time], I'm very satisfied."
Satisfied or not, the 10-time world champion in the 5000m still had to hand over her title to Russia’s flying Natalya Voronina.
Despite having seen numerous skaters wearing themselves out too early in the endurance races over the first two days of the tournament, the Russian set out even faster than Sáblíková had done and maintained her incredible pace to take gold in a world-record time of 6:39.02.
"If you don’t take any risks, you'll never win," her proud coach Pawel Abratkiewicz (POL) said afterwards.
"She was third in last Thursday's 3000m and had taken bronze medals in the 3000 and the 5000m previously. I said to her: ‘your time will come’, and there it is."
Voronina was confident she would not blow out before the end of the race, as so many had before her.
"When I saw 30.1 after my first full lap I knew that it was fast,” she said. “But the speed came easy so I thought I could keep it up.
"I did not realize that I was faster than Martina. It was only when my coach shouted that I was 2.5 seconds faster after 4600m, that I knew it could be a world record. I thought, ‘if I don't fall, the title is mine’."
Ladies' 5000m medalists (from left): Sáblíková (CZE, silver), Voronina (RUS, gold), Visser (NED, bronze) 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)
Sáblíková was the first to congratulate Voronina after the race.
"This was an incredible competition. I was going to lose this title sooner or later and I'm very happy for her [Voronina],” the 32-year-old said.
"I told her that she's my hero. She skated under 6:40. I've tried to do that five times before and never managed."
Visser, who had followed Sáblíková at a distance in the fourth pairing, took bronze in 6:46.68.
Unlike the top two on the podium, the Olympic champion was not able to pull off a personal best.
"I was not able to coordinate my feet well. It's not the legs it's something in the coordination of my lower legs,” she said. “I don't know why.
"This season has been mediocre for me. I'm going to have to look into it. The gap [towards silver and gold] is just too big."
Jutta Leerdam (NED) is all smiles after claiming her first individual world title 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)
Ladies’ 1000m: Leerdam’s golden month goes on
It’s been a good few weeks for young Dutch skater Jutta Leerdam.
Having won the European 1000m title on home ice in Heerenveen in January, and played a part in the Netherlands’ Team Sprint gold here on Thursday, the 21-year-old added a first individual world title to her resumé.
The five-time silver medal winner in the 2018 World Junior Championships was the only one who finished below 1:12 at the Utah Olympic Oval on Saturday, stopping the clock at 1:11.84.
Fatkulina, who also took bronze in Friday's 500m, last won an individual title at the World Single Distances Championships in 2013 when she took gold in the 1000m.
The 30-year-old Russian was disappointed not to repeat that feat in 2020, but admitted that watching Leerdam brought some fond memories.
"I think I can skate at world-record level, but today it just was not good enough,” she said.
"Leerdam’s a young and very talented skater. She seems to be a very emotional girl, which reminds me of the skater I was when I was 20 years old."
The Dutch champion was honored by the comparison.
"I've got to admit that I haven't seen Fatkulina as a young skater. I was very young at the time and I played field hockey. I only started skating when I was 11,” she said.
"But I know what results Fatkulina has set in the past, so I consider [that comparison] to be a real compliment."
On a day of multiple world-record times on the Salt Lake City ice, Leerdam fell just 0.23 seconds short of Brittany Bowe’s (USA) leading time of 1.11.61.
"I could have skated [the world record] today,” she said. “The race went well, but there was a mishap entering one of the corners. If I had done that better… but hey, we've got to save something for the future."
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